Is God Finished with the Jewish People? (Part 3)
The Land: Title vs. Possession
Through the Mosaic covenant, the Lord did, however, lay out the conditions for continuous possession of the land. If the Israelites obeyed, there would be blessing. If they disobeyed there would be curses. If they persisted in disobedience, they would even be uprooted from the land and dispersed.
Just as it pleased the LORD to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods….Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening, ‘If only it were morning!’ – because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see. (Deuteronomy 28:63-67)
History has born witness to God’s faithfulness to His covenant, including the conditions He gave for the possession of the land.
What is of utmost importance as we look at this issue is to be very careful to distinguish between title and possession. We can have a title to something, but not possession of it.
The above verses were indeed a preview of the history of the Jewish people! Not only during the Babylonian captivity, but over the last 2,000 years. The Jewish people have found no repose among the nations. They have indeed been filled with anxiety and dread throughout their history.
The ten northern tribes of Israel were utterly dispersed in 722 BC by the Assyrians. The two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin, were then dispersed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Finally, after the national Jewish rejection of the Messiah, the Romans conquered Jerusalem in 70 AD, and the Great Diaspora began, one that would last almost 2,000 years. Yet – and this is of utmost significance – notice that nowhere in Deuteronomy 28 did the Lord say that He would revoke the title to the land; just the possession of it. If God had said that, it would have violated the covenant that he had made with Abraham, in which He had unilaterally promised the land as an “everlasting possession to Abraham and his descendants.”
In fact, the Lord actually affirmed the everlasting nature of the covenant He made with Abraham in several passages:
I Chronicles 16:15-18
He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit. [Emphasis added]
This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the LORD Almighty is his name: ‘Only if these decrees [by which the Lord reigns over nature!] vanish from my sight,’ declares the Lord, ‘will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.’ This is what the LORD says: ‘Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,’ declares the Lord. [Emphasis added]
On the one hand, the prophet Jeremiah prophesied that God’s judgment was irrevocable: the Jews would be carried away to captivity in Babylon. Yet, the Lord also spoke through Jeremiah that regardless of what they had done, He would not reject them permanently.
“Have you noticed that these people are saying [the Lord is speaking] ‘The LORD has rejected the two kingdoms He chose’? So they despise my people and no longer regard them as a nation. This is what the LORD says: ‘If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth, then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes, and I will have compassion on them.’ ”
In Zechariah 2:8, the Lord speaks concerning nations that had come against Israel, even nations that He had used in some instances to discipline her. Nevertheless, He makes the very interesting comment: “For whoever touches you touches the apple of his [God’s] eye.” Despite Israel’s failures and her disobedience, she is still special and beloved because the Lord chose to love her.
The Apostle Paul asks in Romans 11:1:
I ask then, did God reject his people? By no means!…Again I ask: did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make Israel envious….“For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:1, 11, 29) [Emphasis Added]
The context of this Scripture directly concerns Israel. God’s call for Israel is irrevocable. Disobedience under the Mosaic Covenant did not annul the Abrahamic Covenant. Paul confirms this vitally important fact in Galatians 3:17-18:
“What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise, but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.”
What promise? The promise made to Abraham that the Lord would give him:
a people (the Israelites),
a place (the covenant land of Israel), and
a purpose (to bless all men through him); and that these promises would be kept
God has been faithful to His covenants. Israel lost possession of the land in 722 BC and in 586 BC because of disobedience under the Mosaic Covenant. After the nation rejected the Messiah, the Jews were once again dispersed in 70 AD, when the Romans conquered Jerusalem. Yet, the Lord has never revoked Israel’s title to the land!
Jesus Himself prophesied in Luke 21:24 that the Jews would be taken captive to the nations, and that Jerusalem would be trampled on until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. History has testified to Jesus’ words as different powers have controlled the land: the Romans, the Byzantines, the Persians, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Marmelukes, the Turks, the British, and the Jordanians. Then, on June 7, 1967, Israel liberated the Jewish Quarter, gaining control of all of Jerusalem for the first time in 2,000 years. When Israeli forces reached the Wailing Wall – all that remains of the Temple of Jesus’ day – the chief Rabbi of the Israeli Defense Force declared, “We are entering the Messianic era for the Jewish people.” What a very interesting statement indeed! There was definitely something significant in the mind and heart of the Jewish people about 1967. (Later, we will return to the significance of the year 1967 for Israel and for the Body of Christ.)