GOD of ISRAEL of GOD — Part 8 — Israel Estranged in Exile

“Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband,
so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel,”
declares the LORD.

[Jeremiah 3:20]

In my last post in this series, I laid the Biblical foundation for Israel’s identity as the elect bride of God. God chose for Himself a covenant people from all the nations of the earth. After redeeming Israel from Egypt, she became His treasured possession and cherished bride by entering into a marriage covenant with the LORD at Sinai.

Sadly, Israel proved to be an unfaithful wife and persisted in unbelief and idolatry for generations, despite God’s extraordinary long-suffering and mercy. Even God’s mercy and patience has limits, and He finally resolved to give Israel a certificate of divorce.

A WAYWARD WIFE AND A MERCIFUL GOD

The LORD said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore7And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore.

[Jeremiah 3:6-8]

The LORD offered Israel an exclusive covenant relationship at Sinai, and the people unanimously accepted, saying “everything you have said we will do and obey.” God offered them a life and a home. He offered protection, provision, and even His very presence. He offered them His instructions for blessings and warnings for cursing. Most of all, the LORD was offering unconditional love and covenantal faithfulness overflowing upon them with unimaginable blessing and joy for generations to come.

It did not take long, however, for Israel to break faith. Before Moses could even get back down the mountain to confirm the marriage contract, God’s chosen bride was already going after another god, provoking the LORD to anger [see Exodus 32]. Except for a few good years, Israel persistently played the whore, even though God patiently waited for her, continually calling his people to repent and return to Him.

For hundreds of years, God showed extraordinary mercy to His elect bride. Like Hosea bearing the heartbreak of being married to the likes of Gomer, the LORD knew the pain of a wayward wife.

God’s judgment and anger finally exceeded His mercy, however. He could no longer turn a blind eye to Israel’s brazen idolatry and deliberate disregard for Him as her “Husband.” So God put away Israel — writing her a certificate of divorce, expelling her from her homeland, exposing her lewdness and perversion and giving her over to her vile lovers — the gods of the nations — where she would be lost and absorbed by the nations.

Plead with your mother, plead—
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband

that she put away her whoring from her face,
and her adultery from between her breasts.

[Hosea 2:2]

I know Ephraim,
and Israel is not hidden from me;
for now, O Ephraim, you have played the whore;
Israel is defiled.
4Their deeds do not permit them
to return to their God.
For the spirit of whoredom is within them,
and they know not the LORD.

[Hosea 5:3-4]

DIVORCE and DISPERSION

Israel has been swallowed up; They are now among the nations Like a vessel in which no one delights.

[Hosea 8:8]

After the death of King Solomon (circa 932 B.C.) the Kingdom of Israel fractured into two separate nations. Ten tribes formed the northern kingdom, which retained the name Israel — otherwise known as Ephraim — and the remaining two tribes became known as Judah. One nation now divided into two houses. Both houses would prove to be unfaithful and break the covenant God made with them at Sinai.

While the LORD finally sent Ephraim away into exile, He did not fully reject Judah on account of His promise to King David. Judah would become a remnant representing God’s covenant people — the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.

Gomer conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy [Lo-ruhama], for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.

[Hosea 1:6-7]

Israel, on the other hand would become exiles, wanderers among the nations.

Because of the wickedness of their deeds
I will drive them out of my house.
I will love them no more;

all their princes are rebels
...
17My God will reject them
because they have not listened to him;
they shall be wanderers among the nations.

[Hosea 9:15,17]

It’s not that the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai was deficient. God’s laws and statutes and precepts are perfect. The deficiency is not with God’s covenant, it is with the people who try — and overwhelmingly fail — to keep it. Failing to remain faithful. Failing to love the LORD our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and body.

For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah
, 9not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them,” declares the Lord.

[Hebrews 8:8-9]

Because the northern Kingdom of Israel refused to return to God, He punished them and put them away with a certificate of divorce to be swallowed up by the nations. Interestingly, the patriarch Jacob prophetically predicted the fate of Ephraim long before this tragic divorce and exile.

But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother [Ephraim] shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.

[Genesis 48:19]

This begs the question. How could Ephraim (house of Israel) become a multitude of nations when they were driven out of the land and lost to the nations? There is really only one logical solution. Although the house of Israel was scattered to the nations, God will redeem Israel by redeeming … the NATIONS! Israel may have been absorbed into the nations, losing her identity, but she will be brought back to God through a new and better covenant as the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed to all nations and Israel is reclaimed by the God of Israel in the end!

Even at the lowest point of Israel’s existence, God promised to not utterly forsake His people forever but rather to one day bring them back to Himself and to their homeland. The miracle, however, is HOW God determined to do this, which is what I will discuss in my next post. Until then, consider the words of Ezekiel.

The word of the Lord came to me: 15“Son of man, the people of Jerusalem have said of your fellow exiles and all the other Israelites, ‘They are far away from the Lord; this land was given to us as our possession.’ 16Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.’ 17Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’ 18They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. 19I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.

[Ezekiel 11:14-20]

GOD of ISRAEL of GOD — Part 7 — Israel — God’s Elect Bride

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

[1 Peter 2:9]

As we have already seen through this series, Israel can be traced through a variety of theological threads and seen through a mosaic of different lenses, but none is more powerful as the covenant bond and spiritual union of marriage. The marriage metaphor communicates such vivid imagery and spiritual symmetry that is directly reflected in God’s relationship with His covenant people — Israel — His Elect — God’s chosen bride.

The LORD calls Israel elect — from the Hebrew bachar [בָּחר] — His chosen people — His cherished bride — His own treasured possession.

Of all the nations, tribes, and tongues on the earth, God chose the children of Israel to be His covenant people — and Israel too would have the responsibility to choose the LORD to be their God. After redeeming Israel from Egypt and leading her through the sea … the LORD brought Israel to the foot of God’s holy mountain. For the very first time, Israel was a free nation able to choose which God they would serve.

It was there at Sinai that the Bridegroom God entered spacetime and came down on the mountain as an all-consuming fire — yet coming near in order to offer Israel the chance to start over and have a new life. The LORD formally proposed to the people speaking through Moses with language of betrothal and covenant relationship. The marriage contract was written in stone by the finger of God and cut with blood. Moses was the priest mediator between God and Israel. The people said, “I do,” and the betrothal became forever binding.

God’s betrothal at Sinai was at the complete exclusion of all other gods yet ironically would lead to the full inclusion of the nations under the authority of those gods. In other words, the elect of God are always chosen to be a blessing and a benefit to all people. Israel was always intended to be a light to the nations and to proclaim the good news to the ends of earth [Isaiah 49:6]. Her election was not for the exclusion of the nations but for their blessing.

Yet like all of us … Israel did not always live up to her potential or keep her covenant promises.

The sordid past of ancient Israel is no secret. Tragically she has spent many more years estranged from God than in covenant faithfulness to Him — an adulterous wife chasing after other gods. Hers is a story of tragedy but also of triumph, life and loss, heart-ache and healing, exile and redemption. No matter how far God’s covenant people have strayed, two things have remained true.

  • God always preserves for Himself a faithful remnant [see Romans 11:1-5]
  • God will forever remain faithful to keep His covenant promises to His chosen people Israel. [Jeremiah 31:31-37]

The Apostle Paul understood God’s relationship to His covenant people as well as anyone. He knew Israel was God’s elect bride from the very beginning and that God is resolved to keep His promises and remain faithful to the end, even when we are faithless.

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory11The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.

[2 Timothy 2:10-13]

As we are about to discover, the story of God’s relationship to Israel — His elect bride — is the story of the gospel — how the Bridegroom God was willing to give His very life in order to ransom His wayward wife from her bondage and bring her back to Himself and present her as a pure virgin bride in the end — clothed in the radiant righteousness of Christ! The story of Israel is God’s great love story of redemption and restoration.

Before we can appreciate how the story ends — at a royal wedding by a glassy sea — we first must go back to it’s very beginning — where Israel first found grace in the wilderness.

THE WILDERNESS — WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”.

[Exodus 19:5-6]

It is fascinating to discover how many times God leads us into the wilderness — into the dry and barren lands, the dark and dangerous deserts — only to meet us where we are and remind us that He is all we truly have. He is all we will ever have. That is what we learn in the wilderness.

The Scriptures emphasize the significance of the wilderness in man’s journey from exile to the promised land. How the heroes of the faith often met God in the desert. Whether the patriarchs or prophets like Abraham or Jacob or Moses or David or Elijah, the LORD often uses the wilderness journey to radically reveal Himself in a personal and powerful way.

Of course this was true of that Exodus generation that was first redeemed out of Egypt and brought to the wilderness of Sinai and there entered into a covenant with the Most High — the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. The covenant at Sinai is the prophetic template and sets the pattern for the rest of Scripture.

Consider how John the Baptizer came as a voice of one crying out in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Lord. Remember how our Lord Jesus was willing to face — and pass — His own 40-day testing in the wilderness. How John the beloved disciple spent years in exile on the desolate island of Patmos, only to see the Risen Lord revealed in all His glory!

And the prophets understood that this present age would end as it has already been — in the wilderness, in exile, in a desolate land, in a time of great trouble. And like before, it is in the wilderness that we will meet God face to face and we will know that He is God and that there is no other. What’s been done will be done again.

The Covenant of Betrothal at Sinai

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah32not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

[Jeremiah 31:31-33]

Almost everything about the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai was conveyed in terms of a betrothal — or in Hebrew thought a “Ketubah”. The Ketubah is a legally binding agreement and conditional covenant between a husband and his betrothed wife — who promise to faithfully commit to one another in an exclusively binding relationship. The betrothal is considered a legal marriage only awaiting the official consummation through physical union on the wedding night. To learn more about this amazing connection, feel free to check out Joel Richardson’s book Sinai to Zion.

Just consider the language at Sina that God conveyed through His commandments. They read just like marriage vows.

  1. You shall have no other gods besides Me — the LORD demands an exclusive covenant relationship. No adulterating. Forsaking all others until death do us part. The LORD is Jealous for His people!
  2. You shall not serve or worship anything before Me — the LORD is the supreme priority before all other things. No idolatry. To love and to cherish above all else.
  3. You shall not take the Name of the LORD in vain — the LORD has attached His name to His people and His people now represent His Name and Character. No disgracing His Name. Like a wife takes her husband’s last name and now is directly and intimately connected to him — a reflection and representation of her husband.
  4. Keep the Sabbath holy — the LORD desires regular, intentional, quality time with His people — continue investing in the marriage and keeping it alive in the spirit of a weekly time to reconnect with and reorient toward one another.

It is clear in God’s own testimony that He took on the metaphorical role of a “Husband” to Israel, bound by His promise to care for and nurture and provide for His betrothed. Israel was betrothed to the LORD as His chosen bride, which also bound God to forever remain faithful to Israel — even though she would perpetually break the covenant and likewise break God’s heart.

As we will see in the next installment, God spent generations calling His chosen bride — Israel — back from her idolatry, but she persisted in her adulteries until finally the LORD reached a breaking point and sent her away into exile with a certificate of divorce.

All hope seemed lost as God gave Israel up to the gods of other nations, and yet in the midst of His judgment — the LORD always reaffirmed His promise never to utterly forsake His people. No! He had another plan in mind. A new and better covenant. It’s just that it would take an extreme sacrifice by the Bridegroom God to make the way to bring Israel back and restore her as a pure and faithful bride in the end.

For your Maker is your Husband,
the LORD of hosts is his name
;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
6For the LORD has called you
like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
says your God.
7For a brief moment I deserted you,
but with great compassion I will gather you
.
8In overflowing anger for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you
,”
says the LORD, your Redeemer.

[Isaiah 54:5-8]

GOD of Israel of GOD — Part 6 — Israel My Firstborn Son

Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me. If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.'”

[Exodus 4:22-23]

Israel began as one man, Jacob, growing into a family and then an entire ethnic people group in Egypt. Once in captivity under Pharaoh, the LORD God of Israel redeemed His people and chose them as a holy nation — a people of His own possession.

God often uses human relationships to illustrate and convey His love and commitment to us, and one of the most profound examples is the relationship between father and child. The LORD speaks of Israel as both son and daughter to demonstrate the depth of His heartfelt devotion to His people, and as we will see, this thread continues to run throughout the Scriptures to the very end.

In essence, God is communicating one big idea to Israel. We are family.

The Apple of God’s Eye

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The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes,31and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.

[Deuteronomy 1:30-31]

The LORD called Israel his firstborn son, which is a term associated both with preeminence and inheritance. God’s law made provisions for the firstborn to receive a double portion of the father’s inheritance [Deuteronomy 21:15-17]. By using the title of firstborn, God was declaring Israel to be the rightful heir of His kingdom and His possessions. The LORD was willing to give Israel everything.

The language of the Exodus provokes a powerful image of a loving father carrying his son through the perils of the wilderness and leading him to safety. Like any doting father, God kept Israel as the apple of His eye from the day he was born. Nothing compares to a father’s love for his children.

But the LORD’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.

10 He found him in a desert land,
and in the howling waste of the wilderness;
he encircled him, he cared for him,
he kept him as the apple of his eye
.
11Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
that flutters over its young,
spreading out its wings, catching them,
bearing them on its pinions,
12the LORD alone guided him,
no foreign god was with him
.

[Deuteronomy 32:9-12]

A Wayward Son

Tragically Israel grew privileged, ungrateful, and rebellious — dishonoring his Father with all forms of idolatry and immorality. Not only did Israel’s habitual sin break God’s heart but also provoked Him to anger.

But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. 19 The LORD saw it and spurned them, because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters. 20And he said, ‘I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness.

[Deuteronomy 32:15-20]

The prophet Hosea echoes the words of Moses. You can hear the disappointment in the Father’s heart, as He reflects on the memories of Israel’s life.

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2The more they were called,
the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals
and burning offerings to idols.

3Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up by their arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
4I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them.

[Hosea 11:1-4]

God’s One and Only Son

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

[Matthew 17:5]

Where Israel failed as God’s firstborn son, Jesus the Messiah would succeed. Where Israel would dishonor the Father in sinful rebellion, Jesus would perfectly please the LORD. Where Israel would fail to be a light unto the Gentiles and lead the nations to worship the One True God, Jesus would come as the light of the world, leading all men out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Of course, we must not conclude that the Father sent His one and only Son into the world as a supplemental fix for Israel’s rebellion. NO! The incarnation of God the Son was always God’s original plan from before the very foundation of the world [John 17:23-24]. As the Creator Himself, Jesus is the firstborn over all creation, having preeminence in all things [Colossians 1:15-18].

And as only God could do, He opened the door through the cross for the whole world to believe in His Son and be given the right of being adopted as sons and daughters of the King!

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!

[Galatians 4:4-6]

A Prodigal Returns

With weeping they shall come,

and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back,

I will make them walk by brooks of water,

in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,

for I am a father to Israel,

and Ephraim is my firstborn.

[Jeremiah 31:9]

One of the most amazing realties of God’s ultimate plan of redemption is His unwavering commitment to the covenant people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Although Israel has proven to be by and large a rebellious son, God has not forsaken Israel and has promised to bring him back home in the end. The natural branches that were broken off in unbelief will be grafted back in to God’s family tree in the end.

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

[Romans 11:11-12]

Although a partial hardening has come upon ethnic Israel for many generations, God has always persevered for Himself a remnant. And like the prodigal son who has been estranged from his father in sin, Israel will return to the LORD through many trials and trust in God’s own Son — the Messiah.

This is the amazing story of redemption. God has by no means totally rejected Israel, but like a faithful Father, He will make good all His promises to the physical descendants of Jacob and keep His covenant to the end. Just as He does with all of His wayward children, the Father is waiting for the people of Israel to repent and return to Him, where He will receive them back with open arms! And in this way, all Israel — both Jew and Gentile — will be saved when Messiah returns to lead us home to inherit the kingdom of Israel as God’s firstborn sons!

Yet the number of the Israelites will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted. And it will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’

[Hosea 1:10]

GOD of Israel of GOD — Part 5 — Israel the Redeemed of Yahweh

Say therefore to the people of Israel, “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.

[Exodus 6:6]

The Exodus from Egypt is the single most significant event in the history of God’s people prior to the incarnation of Jesus Christ and His subsequent death, burial and resurrection. The Exodus not only lays the foundation for our faith in the God of Israel — Yhvh or Yahweh — but also marks the birth of the nation of Israel and the supernatural redemption of God’s people.

The sacred writings of the Torah, Psalms, and prophets collectively are pointing back to the Exodus as the signature event in Israel’s past, while at the same time looking forward to the greater Exodus at the end of the age when Messiah is revealed from heaven. God’s redemption of Israel out of Egypt and through the waters of the Red Sea provide the template for our ultimate redemption through the Person and work of Jesus Christ — the greater Moses.

God Breaks the Bonds of a Cruel Master

Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey …

[Exodus 3:7-8]

Israel sojourned into Egypt as a family of 70 and grew into a great multitude. Pharaoh responded by enslaving the people of God and subjecting them to harsh labor under his cruel taskmasters. For generations all the children of Israel were born into slavery and knew nothing of freedom. Even worse, Israel was powerless to deliver herself from Pharaoh and were left desperately crying out to God in agony.

Although Israel languished in despair, the Bible tells us that God heard their cry and determined to act. Israel needed a God greater than the gods of Egypt and someone more powerful than Pharaoh. Only the LORD — the Most High — could save them, and that is precisely what He did.

Israel, of course, is meant to be indicative of humankind in general, as we all are born into spiritual slavery as sons of Adam and held in bondage by the evil ruler of this world — the devil. The parallels between man’s sinful condition and Israel are obvious. In and of ourselves we are left powerless over sin and the devil, who has authority over all the kingdoms of the world [Luke 4].

Like Israel, we need a God who is greater than all our sin and more powerful than the devil to deliver us from our hopeless state. The good news is that the God of Israel became a man in the person of Jesus Christ and came to redeem us from the powers of darkness and transfer us into the Kingdom of God.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

[Romans 6:22-23]

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

[1 John 3:8]

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

[Colossians 1:13-14]

God Brings us through the Waters of New Birth

Israelites walk through Red Sea | quibi04 | Flickr

The LORD will reign forever and ever. For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea.

[Exodus 15:18-19]

It was the LORD Himself, clothed in a cloud, leading Israel through the sea, as He also protected them in the rear by a column of fire. When Israel emerged from the depths with the enemy in her wake, she had been reborn — the birth of a nation through the waters of baptism. What a scene as the children of Israel rejoiced and praised God with a victory song of celebration!

The imagery of water baptism and the new birth runs consistently throughout the Scriptures. Noah and his family saved through waters. Moses and Israel saved through the sea. Jesus Himself, while ascending from the baptismal waters of the Jordan, is identified by the Father from heaven as His beloved Son — the Messiah of Israel. Later Jesus schools the teacher of Israel — Nicodemus — by revealing that man must be born of more than mere natural descent in order to enter God’s kingdom. We must be born again — from above — by the Holy Spirit.

In other words, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, but only those who participate in the resurrection at the end of the age. Ultimately the flesh counts for nothing, but God’s words are Spirit and eternal life!

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

[1 Peter 3:21-22]

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

[Romans 6:3-5]

Paul reminds us that all of these supernatural events throughout history are examples and foreshadowings of greater things to come in Christ — who not only redeemed Israel as a new nation but also who redeems us as a new creation.

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

[1 Corinthians 10:1-4]

God Redeems us a People of His own Possession

Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.

[Exodus 19:3-6]

Once the LORD had drowned Pharaoh and the army of Egypt in the sea, the process of redemption had been complete. Israel was chosen and set apart from all the nations of the earth to be God’s treasured possession and covenant people. The LORD will forever be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Israel is the name of the covenant people of God, but Israel was not redeemed at the exclusion of the other nations of the earth but rather for their ultimate blessing and inclusion into God’s kingdom.

In Christ, all the nations of the earth will be blessed. In Christ, God has made for Himself a people from not only the tribes of Israel but also from every tribe and nation and people of the earth. Even as Israel departed Egypt and crossed the sea, it was a mixed multitude of Egyptian and Israelite alike. God’s plan has always been to redeem for Himself kingdom of priest from every nation!

The Exodus is the pattern for all of redemptive history, and Christ is the hero of the whole story. Jesus is the image of the invisible God — the One who manifested in human form to redeem Israel out of Egypt — the One who took on flesh to save the world — and the One who is coming down again in power and great glory at the end of this present age to ultimately redeem the sons of God through the resurrection of the dead.

They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. 26I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore27My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore

[Ezekiel 37:25-28]

Next session, I will consider Israel the Bride of the LORD and the betrothal at Mt. Sinai.

The GOD of Israel of GOD — Part 4 — Captive Israel

O Come, O Come Immanuel … and ransom captive Israel … that mourns in lonely exile here … until the Son of God appear.

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“Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the LORD,
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.

[Jeremiah 30:10-11]

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

Covenant And Controversy - Part II: City Of The Great King ...
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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.

GOD of Israel of GOD —Part 3 — Israel the Ethnic Group

All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt.6Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

[Exodus 1:5-7]

Israel migrated into Egypt as a family, and as the LORD had promised Abraham, Israel multiplied greatly in Egypt for 400 years and became a distinct ethnic people group. Known as the children of Israel or the Hebrews, God’s covenant people prospered in Egypt until a wicked Pharaoh arose in power and subjugated Israel into slavery.

By the time of Moses and the Exodus, Israel had grown to 600,000 men plus women and children, which means that their numbers far exceeded one million at the end of their sojourn in Egypt [see Exodus 12:37-38]. It is just like God to work His perfect will and bless His people through adverse, even hopeless, circumstances. Consider what the LORD told Abraham some 400 years earlier.

Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions” … On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates”

[Exodus 15:13-14,18]

Little is known about Israel during this 400 year sojourn in Egypt. All that we are told from the Biblical record is that after Joseph and his generation died, a new king arose in Egypt who despised the Hebrews and initiated what would become a vicious cycle of suffering followed by divine deliverance. If there has been one common thread that has run continuously throughout Israel’s history, it is the thread of rebellion, oppression, and divine chastisement, leading to repentance and restoration.

Many times the ethnic people of Israel brought oppression and judgment upon themselves as the consequences of unbelief and rebellion against the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Others times Israel was the exclusive target of satanic hostility and opposition, as the seed war of Genesis 3:15 developed and progressed in real time. As the chosen covenant people group of God, Israel was the conduit through which God had resolved to work His will and ultimately bring forth the Messiah to crush the head of the Serpent and bless all nations.

God’s Chosen Portion

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
9But the LORD’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.

10He found him in a desert land,
and in the howling waste of the wilderness;
he encircled him, he cared for him,
he kept him as the apple of his eye
.

[Deuteronomy 32:8-10]
Cross and Cutlass: Prophectic Signposts - Israel is still ...

After the flood the LORD came down to judge the rebellion at Babel led by Nimrod. In His divine judgment, the LORD confused the languages of mankind, creating natural barriers that would lead to the birth of the original 70 nations [see Genesis 10-11]. It was at this time that the LORD divided up the nations and their boundaries according to the number of the sons of God [see Deuteronomy 32:8-9], but the LORD reserved for Himself one people group — one ethnos — as His own allotted inheritance, namely Israel.

From that moment, the nations of the earth — or Gentiles — were considered profane and alienated from God and the commonwealth of Israel. Gentiles have been oppressed and deceived by the evil, heathen “gods” of the nations, who led them into gross immorality and idolatry. Israel, on the other hand, wold be set apart as holy unto the LORD — the Most High and God of gods.

This hard ethnic distinction runs throughout the Scriptures, until the mystery of God was revealed in Christ, who came to reclaim and redeem a people for God’s possession from all the nations of the earth and gather them into Israel. As Paul reminds us in Romans 9, “As indeed he says in Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved. And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God
.’” [Romans 9:25-26]

In Christ, the ethnic barrier was brought down and God united all people in Christ — not so that we all would lose our ethnic identity but rather so that we could all reflect the immense diversity of the kingdom and represent the manifold beauty of God’s saving grace.

When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

[Ephesians 3:4-6]

Although Christ has brought down the dividing wall of hostility and redeemed people from every tribe and language and nation into His kingdom, that is not to say that God’s covenant promises to the ethnic people of Israel (aka the Jews) have become obsolete. God’s promises and purposes remain for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the “flesh,” which means that the ethnic distinction of Israel in these last days is on of the greatest prophetic phenomena of redemptive history.

The fact that an ethnic, national, and territorial Israel still exists today, some 3,500 years since the Exodus, is profound in and of itself. The fact that Israel remains at the center of the geopolitical and religious controversy of the Middle East is one of the most substantial prophetic signs of the last days.

In my next post, I will deal exclusively with Israel in captivity — God’s people in bondage.

GOD of Israel of GOD — Part 2 — Israel the Family

All the persons belonging to Jacob who came into Egypt, who were his own descendants, not including Jacob’s sons’ wives, were sixty-six persons in all. 27And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two. All the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy.

Genesis 46:26-27

After Babel, God chose Abram from among the nations and entered into an everlasting covenant with him. God’s covenant involves a promise for a chosen family, a holy nation, a land, and ultimately a Son — a King — to bless all the families of the earth and save mankind. This covenant is predicated on and perpetuated by God’s grace and it is actuated and applied through our faith in Messiah and God’s holy word. As it is written, from first to last, the righteous shall live by faith.

God gave Abraham a miracle son of promise, Isaac — one of the first to typify the resurrection of Jesus Christ [see Genesis 22 the “AKEDAH“]. The LORD then extended His covenant to Isaac’s son, Jacob, changing his name to Israel. After initiating a covenant relationship with the patriarchs, the LORD God continued His redemptive work through Israel the family. By the time Jacob and His 12 sons sojourned to Egypt during the famine in the days of Joseph, they constituted a family — 70 persons in all.

So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.2And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” 3Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. 4I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.

Genesis 46:1-4

Israel — the Family of God

The LORD is a personal God, a relational God. He is our Father, our Redeemer, our Comforter and Healer. He desires deep heartfelt devotion and covenant communion with His people. God has chosen a family for Himself to reflect His glory and nature to the world. From Adam to Noah — from the Garden to the flood — the LORD worked through the nuclear family to accomplish His purposes. As image bearers of the Creator and King of the universe, mankind has been purposed to be God’s kingdom representatives on the earth.

God’s covenant family always has consisted of loyal and believing sons and daughters and servants and saints, who desire to see God’s kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Even God — having revealed Himself through the infinitely complex dynamics of His own triune nature — eternally exists in perpetual love and communion as Father, Son and Spirit. The LORD is One as a unity — perfect in power and purpose and will, yet at the same time God is inherently diverse within Himself, existing in three distinct persons and expressing His manifold wisdom in all creation. Just as one family consists of many members, God consists of three distinct, yet united, personalities.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:14-19

As I said, the Most Hight is a God of relationship. He is the Head of the household and the Father of the family. He has chosen to redeem for Himself a people for His own possession and that people will forever be known as Israel.

Israel — the Household of God

Message Series The House of God

Jacob was blessed with 12 sons and one daughter. The sons of Israel are the princes or tribal heads of the 12 tribes of Israel. The 12 sons of Israel represent God’s eternal family, and every believer in the God of Israel is automatically Incorporated into one of the 12 tribes. We see this reality expressed in the Heavenly Jerusalem that will come down to earth during the Millennial Kingdom of Christ.

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed.

Revelation 21:10-12

The Scriptures are replete with language depicting God’s covenant people as a household or family. His ultimate promise is to be our God and we HIs people.

And like any human family, Israel was to some degree both dysfunctional and disobedient, marred by scandal and moral failure. Jacob schemed his father-in-law Laban and acquired much of his wealth. Sibling rivalry often raged between Jacob’s two wives, Leah and Rachel. When Jacob showed favoritism to Rachel’s son Joseph, the rest of his brothers betrayed him and sold him as a slave into Egypt. Even Judah was deceived by his own daughter-in-law, Tamar, and conceived an illegitimate child through her.

Needless to say, the family of Israel was far from perfect, which consistently reminded them of their need for a sinless Savior and righteous Redeemer. The sons of Israel needed an elder brother to restore them to the God of their fathers, and Israel looked forward in faith to the day Messiah would come. In the same way, God’s people today look back in faith upon the cross and empty tomb of Christ, and to all who receive Him and believe in His name God gives the right to be called the children of God.

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ … For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.

Ephesians 2:12-13, 18-20

It is Jesus Christ who came in the flesh to bring many sons to glory, leading us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers

Hebrews 2:9-12

Israel — the 12 Tribes of God

A tribe is a related group of people with a common ancestor. When Israel went down to Egypt as 70 persons in all, there were 12 tribes in one family. Think of it like an extended family with uncles and cousins and grandchildren and nephews. Israel is the tribe of the One True God, and Jesus Himself reminds us that the tribes of Israel have an eternal destiny in the kingdom of God and the regeneration of all things.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the regeneration of all things, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.

Matthew 19:28-29

From patriarch to family to the 12 tribes, Israel has always been God’s chosen people for His own possession out of all the nations of the earth. Next time I will expand my study of Israel to it’s season of captivity and it’s birth as God’s holy nation.

GOD of ISRAEL of GOD — Part 1 — Israel the Patriarch

Israel can be viewed as a masterful mosaic through a variety of lenses in the Biblical narrative. Historical, geographical, genealogical, covenantal, spiritual, geopolitical, peculiar, and prophetic to name a few. Israel is called the “son” of God [Exodus 4:21-23], and yet at the same time Israel is depicted as the beautiful bride who one day will be restored to her Beloved as a radiant and pure virgin prepared for the Bridegroom [Jeremiah 31 & Isaiah 62:1-5].

Genesis 32:22-28 BDC: Did Jacob wrestle with an angel or ...
Jacob wrestling with God

All of these analogies are essential to understanding the true identity of Israel, but before I dive into deeper waters, I would like to first take a look at Israel the patriarch — the man who was the first to be called by that name. I am speaking, of course, about Jacob. God sought out and initiated a relationship with Jacob — son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham — giving Jacob a new name and consequently a new identity, purpose, and destiny.

The God and Creator of the universe entered into space time and interrupted Jacob’s life in such a profound way that it will forever be tied to the spiritual roots and prophetic purposes of God’s holy people. So what happened when Jacob personally encountered God incarnate? He quickly realized that not only had God spared his life that day but also promised to bless and remain faithful to him and his descendants forever.

By grace Jacob was chosen of the Father to preserve a people for God’s own possession and subsequently become a blessing to rest of the world. By faith, Jacob was counted among the righteous, called a son of the Most High, and given a prophetic promise that he would prevail in the end.

Father Abraham and the Everlasting Covenant of Faith

And behold, the word of the LORD came to Abram: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”5And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

[Genesis 15:4-6]

Before we can look more closely at the patriarch Jacob, we need to back up two generations to his grandfather — Abraham. After the universal flood of Noah’s day and the supernatural rebellion at the Tower of Babel, the LORD God chose to reveal Himself personally to a Hebrew living in ancient Mesopotamia and establish an everlasting covenant with him. His name was Abram, later changed to Abraham — meaning the father of a great multitude [Genesis 17]. The covenant God initiated with Abraham would establish a new family of faith set apart for God’s redemptive purposes and glory.

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
9But the LORD’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage
.

[Deuteronomy 32:8-9]

Abraham is also called the father of faith, having believed God’s word and rested in God’s unfailing promise not only to give him a son — Isaac — but also to provide the Savior of the world through one of his descendants so that all the nations of the earth were to be blessed in Christ.

Beginning with Abraham, the LORD began to reveal Himself in faithfulness through a particular family, both spiritually and genealogically — ensuring that His covenant promises would be transferred and perpetuated throughout all generations. Next the LORD confirmed His covenant exclusively with Abraham’s son , Isaac [Genesis 17:15-21], and later with his grandson, Jacob [Genesis 28:10-17].

These are the patriarchs of Israel — the founding fathers of faith so to speak. From then on, the LORD God would identify Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, further distinguishing Himself as the Most High God and Creator of the Universe — supremely greater than all the other gods of the nations.

Consider the moment the LORD revealed Himself to Jacob and reaffirmed His covenant with him and his descendants forever.

And he [Jacob] dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed15Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

[Genesis 28:12-15]
Depiction of Jacob’s Ladder

Israel — God Prevails

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

[Genesis 32:24-28]

Although the LORD had blessed Jacob at Bethel through a night vision, Jacob’s life forever would be changed at Peniel. Here Jacob would wrestle with God incarnate and talk to Him face to face — otherwise known as a Christophany in Scripture. By demonstrating faith in the LORD, Jacob would receive a new name — Israel — which gives insight into his destiny.

Israel can literally mean “striving with God” or “God prevails.” Both are appropriate for the primary focus must always remain on God, who ultimately prevails and perseveres and remains steadfast and faithful to the end. Likewise, the message in the name “Israel” is that all who believe in the God of Israel will overcome in the end. Israel means to persevere with God and to overcome. Israel means to prevail with God, not independently of God nor arrogantly over God.

As we will see, understanding Israel’s origin and meaning play a significant part in discovering Israel’s identity and destiny. This promise of overcoming with God was not for Jacob alone but for every individual who puts his/her faith in the God of Israel and His Messiah — Jesus Christ.

When we read the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation, Jesus gives unique promises to those who overcome, such as access to the tree of life and authority over the nations. Jesus is speaking of those who persevere with God and remain faithful to the end. In other words, Jesus is giving a promise to … Israel, as all who overcome in faith belong to Israel. It could not get any clearer according to the Apostle John.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

[1 John 5:4-5]

Chosen to Bless the World

God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. 10And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. 11And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. 12The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” 13Then God went up from him in the place where he had spoken with him.

[Genesis 35:9-13]

Like all acts of divine election, Jacob was chosen by God for a specific service and not at the exclusion of the rest of the world but rather for the benefit and blessing of the nations. Jacob was by no means without fault, having been a trickster and schemer from birth, yet by faith Jacob would enter into covenant relationship with the LORD and would become the father of 12 sons, who would become the 12 tribes of Israel.

As the father of this family of faith, Israel would bless his sons before he died [Genesis 49], and in his blessing would be God’s promise to bring the true Son of Israel through the tribe of Judah into the world to save mankind to the uttermost. Jacob also pronounced a profound blessing on Joseph’s two sons.

And Israel blessed Joseph and said,

“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,
16the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys;
and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.

[Genesis 48:15-16]

Like Jacob, all who believe in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, are justified by faith and incorporated into the family of Israel — the household of God. Jesus is the great Overcomer — having conquered sin on the cross and death through His resurrection. It is in Christ alone that we realize our destiny as Israel — prevailing with God.

Those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection37But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”

[Luke 20:35-38]

God of Israel of God — Introduction

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen

[Romans 9:4-5]

Israel.

Who or what is Israel?

Is it an ancient kingdom or merely a place on the map? Is it a peculiar people chosen by God, or something more? Are the Jews to be understood as the same as Israel or distinct? Has the church replaced Israel and inherited all her covenant promises, or does God have a different plan for Israel altogether?

One thing is sure. Israel is at the very heart of holy Scripture and represents one of the most essential threads that runs through God’s great story of redemption, and yet for most Jews and Gentiles alike — Israel remains a mystery. Even within the “ekklesia,” there are as many different views about Israel as there are denominations. To be such a primary component of God’s story, Israel may be the most misunderstood and confused concept in all of the Bible.

I have been following Jesus Christ for over 25 years — serving as a pastor/teacher in the local church for over a decade — and yet I am only beginning to get a handle on the Biblical identity of Israel. For the very first time in my life, I believe I am starting to understand God’s definition of Israel and furthermore how it pertains to my own spiritual identity.

For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

[Galatians 6:15-16]

For years I have read my Bible like there are two sets of rules and two distinct identities for two completely different groups of people — Israel (Jews) and the church (mostly Gentiles). Some go as far as drawing a hard line between the God of Israel as revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures and the God of the church as revealed by Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

But nothing could be further from the truth. While there are clear nuances and complex theological concepts revealed in Scripture, no such distinction exists. Unfortunately, this false dichotomy has caused unnecessary confusion and created an identity crisis in the church. We have forgotten our roots and consequently have lost our way. Israel is the key in finding our way back to the full revelation of Jesus Christ and the eternal purposes of God.

There is one God and one Savior — Jesus Christ — who has come to redeem for Himself one people from all mankind through one Spirit, and Israel has always been in the heart of God as the very apple of His eye.

But the LORD’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage. He found him in a desert land,
and in the howling waste of the wilderness;
he encircled him, he cared for him,
he kept him as the apple of his eye
.

[Deuteronomy 32:9-10]

It is as though I have discovered a trove of lost treasure in the word of God, and this discovery has brought God’s word to life like never before. Just to give you a flavor of what I am talking about, consider the following Biblical truths.

The God of Israel entered into covenant with the people of Israel and promised the kingdom of Israel in the land of Israel. Jesus Christ is the Messiah of Israel who came to redeem people from all nations into the commonwealth of Israel. All who believe in the Messiah of Israel are now members in the household of Israel, enjoying the blessed privileges of Israel, having inherited all the covenant promises of Israel in Christ.

Furthermore, when Jesus Christ returns to earth, He will reign as the King of Israel from the capital city of Israel — Jerusalem — ruling over the 12 tribes of Israel and allotting the promised land of Israel to all who believe. In the coming Kingdom of Israel, all of God’s people will observe the Sabbath and the feasts of the LORD as princes and priests of Israel.

As you can see, Israel is not only foundational to our past but also significantly essential to understanding our spiritual identity and our ultimate destiny.

Over the next several weeks, I will begin unpacking this ambitious task of identifying Israel from a Biblical worldview, and I will begin with Israel the person — the patriarch Jacob.