“Neither will I hide my face any more from them, for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 39:29)
These words, with their preceding context, contain a prophecy of "the bringing again the captivity of Jacob." From the terms of the prophecy itself, not to mention the place assigned it in the series of prophetic announcements, it is manifest that it relates not to the past, but to the future restoration. Two circumstances especially may be adverted to as determining this point. 1. The universality of the restoration (verse 28): "I have gathered them into their own land, and have left none of them any more there that is "in captivity among the heathen." 2. The permanence of their restored state, of God's favourable regard to them and of their spiritual worship of Him, as set forth in the text. The blessings promised to be conferred on the house of Israel in that happy time are not merely temporal. Indeed, according to the tenor of the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — to which, and to Adonai's faithfulness in keeping the covenant for ever, the whole current of prophecy is one continued witnessing — none of the promises was, at least in the ordinary sense which is now generally attached to the words, merely temporal. However, in other respects the land which Adonai sware unto the fathers to give it may resemble other lands, the relation which it bears to Him and, by his oath and gift, to Them, is a thing spiritual, sacred, divine, pledged by indissoluble covenant and secured by purpose and oath, two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie. But whatever may be thought of this we expect it will be readily granted, that the mercy of the Lord (v25), the knowledge of God (v28), the enjoyment of the light of his countenance and the effusion of his Spirit (v29), are blessings in the fullest and most emphatic sense spiritual, and such as accompany eternal salvation. The last of these — the effusion of the Sprit — stands prominently forth as a cause and a security for all the rest. I will do all these things, for I have poured out (or I shall have poured out) my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith Lord God". Our design, at present, is to show the dependence of the salvation of the house of Israel upon the pouring out of Adonai's Spirit. Throughout the body of the lecture, it is deemed fit to confine ourselves to testimonies of the Tanakh and to direct our address peculiarly to the house of Israel. It is hoped, however, that the attentive hearing of our Christian brethren will not be altogether profitless to their personal edification, while it may serve to strengthen their interest in the cause which has assembled us.
The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
Though the mystery of the blessed Trinity, subsisting in the unity of God, be not so clearly and explicitly revealed in the Scriptures of the Old Testament as it is in those of the New, yet it was made known sufficiently as a basis for the faith required of those placed under that dispensation, and as a preparation for the disclosures kept in store for the fullness of the times when the Messiah should come. On the proofs of the Godhead and of the Messiah, the subject of this evening's lecture neither requires nor permits that we should enter. But we no sooner open the sacred volume of the Law and begin to read the stupendous history of the creation than straightaway our adoring attention is demanded to all Agent to whom an important place, and a mysterious but benevolent and beneficent operation on the mass of the world's matter, is assigned — the Spirit of God: "The Spirit of God was brooding upon the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2). And as the fostering care of this blessed One, tenderly moving on the unformed mass — like some loving parent bird over the young progeny of her nest, till the genial heat brings forth the breathing life gave to the shapeless lump (Hebrew: tohu wa-vohu) fitness to receive all forms of beauty with which the hand of Adonai invested it. So, also, the whole adorning of the heavens above, and the exquisite marshalling of their armies, in comeliest, sublimest order, is ascribed to his skill and power: "By His Spirit He garnished the heavens", or "by His Spirit, the heavens are elegance, splendour, dazzling beauty" (Job 26:13). But it is not in the beauty of earth alone, as it came forth "very good" from the hand of its Creator, nor in the sublime spectacle of heaven and all its hosts, that the glory of this blessed Spirit is to be most clearly beheld. Placed amid His works, and ourselves a part of them, but for the word of revelation we would remain entire strangers to His very existence. And revelation, which is sparing though explicit in its notices of His work in creation, is full of the doctrine of His operation on the minds and hearts of men. That He is the Former of the spirit of man within him is not obscurely taught in Genesis 2:7: "He (Adonai God) breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." As an intelligent and spiritual being made in the image and after the likeness of God, destined to hold humble, ennobling communion with his Maker, man is fitted to receive the communications of God's Spirit in a way in which no other creature is here below, and so to show forth the glory of the Divine Spirit in a more exalted manner than it could be displayed in the material of the universe. Before proceeding to consider the nature of the Holy Spirit's operation on the human soul, we assume here, as already proved by others, or as otherwise known from the Scriptures of the Old Testament that Adam fell, and all mankind in him, from that state of holiness and bliss in which he was created, and that being justly subjected to the curse of God threatened in the event of disobedience, the whole hope of mankind is shut up unto the faith of the great Deliverer whom God, of His mere mercy, His abundant mercy, having provided, was pleased to reveal as "the Seed of the woman" that should bruise the Serpent's head while His own heel should be bruised in achieving the victory. That this "Seed of the woman" is the same who was afterwards more determinately made known as the "Seed of Abraham", the Seed "called in Isaac", and the "Seed of" David, the Messiah. With this promise was miserable man driven out of Gan-Eden. With this promise alone to solace him amidst all the misery which the yetzer hara, the evil figment (the corruption of his whole nature) had introduced into his depraved soul, amidst all the fears which conscious guilt inspired (conscious which had made him vainly attempt to hide himself from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden) amidst all the disorders of a world made subject to vanity, cursed for his sake. This promise, the gift of Adonai's grace to utterly ruined man was a light for his feet and a lamp for his path — dim, indeed, if compared with the brightness which revelation in its onward progress communicated but still a ray of the Sun of righteousness arising with healing under His wings, piercing through the blackness of darkness and giving assurance of brightest day. This bringing of a new and better hope laid the foundation of a new obedience corresponding — prompting return by the prospect of acceptance, while the knowledge that he had destroyed himself, but that in Adonai was his help would fill the mind of man with horror of sin, and astonished enraptured gratitude and love to the God of his hope and his salvation. The disbelief then, the neglect and forgetfulness of the promise must have been at the bottom of all the wickedness, which soon overspread the Antediluvian world and provoked the holy Blessed One to bring in a flood of waters on the world of the ungodly. The disclosure of this dread purpose is introduced in these solemn, these most awful words: "My Spirit shall not always strive with man, because that he also is flesh."
The Holy Spirit and Man
I hope for the patience of Christian, and the candour of Jewish hearers, while I remark in regard to the comments of Rabbis who would make "my Spirit," to signify in this place the soul of man as a spirit which may be called "God's" because given of God, that this is a mere wresting of the Scripture as the word occurs in many passages where God is the speaker, and in all of them means "the Spirit of God", in none "the spirit of man" — a fact of which any one who pleases may satisfy himself by referring to a concordance, Hebrew or English. Fixing our eyes, then, for a little on this passage, we see that God, because of the fleshliness, that is, the unspiritualness, the unholiness, of men, threatens with this most awful of all judgements, leaving them to themselves, giving them up to the lusts of their own hearts, withdrawing from them a testimony for Himself, a striving, or a judgement, which, as opposed to their fleshliness, His Spirit, had hitherto maintained. Here we see two opposing principles, the flesh of man aiming against the Spirit of God and the Spirit of God aiming against the flesh of man. The Spirit of God maintaining truth and holiness, the flesh of man rejecting the truth and trampling down the commandments of God. And as we have seen that the promise of the Seed was the brightest exhibition of the holy grace of the Lord, the only foundation of man's warrantable hope, and the faith of it the only wellspring of acceptable service, we may easily infer what the striving or judging is by which the Spirit of God had been hitherto repelling the flood of wickedness which fleshly men had been pouring forth to pollute the earth with their way. He had been acting mediately, or immediately, or both, on the mind of man, as one intelligent being doth on another, He had been acting in a moral and authoritative way, as a judge, or as one who, by plea of right, maintains the claim of truth and equity. He had maintained a testimony for the being and glorious nature of the one God Adonai, for the holiness, justice, and goodness of His law; a testimony against the madness and sinfulness of sin and, above all, a testimony to the word of promise in order that repentance, which issues from faith and flows out into new obedience, might be produced, that thus sinners might not continue in sin through despair of salvation or confirming in it through very love to it, might not have to plead, even to their own consciences, that the iron fetters of despair in which God had left them bound, had tied them up to the hard necessity of remaining in their state of alienation. In a word, the truths of Divine revelation in the measure then made known — all of which cluster around and centre in the promise of the Seed — must have been the subject matter of the Spirit's striving with, or judging in, man. A striving which, though it was resisted, gradually impaired and at last extinguished by wicked resistance on man's part and righteous withdrawal on the part of God, was still so powerful that, till it was entirely quenched, the flesh could not obtain its full unimpeded sway, nor an impious race fill up the measure of their iniquity that the wrath might come on them even to the uttermost. This notice is, indeed, brief, as is the whole sacred narrative of that period. But when we descend to the more ample record of God's dealings with His chosen people and listen to the voice of prophecy opening up the bright promise of grace stored up for the coming times, we find the references to the work of the Holy Spirit becoming proportionally more numerous and express.
The Holy Spirit and Moses
Indeed, upon examination we find that it was by His Spirit that Adonai constituted and maintained all the ordinances of His grace and administered all the affairs of His government among the people whom He chose to be to Him a peculiar people above all people. Of Moses we read that, wearied with the burden of the people which was too heavy for him, he cried out unto the Lord, (Numbers 11:16,17,25). "And Adonai said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone. And Adonai came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto seventy elders; and it came to pass that, when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease." That we should here understand a portion of Moses' soul or intellect is too absurd a supposition to be for a moment entertained. The communication of qualities, the same in kind, though in an inferior measure, to their minds, is indeed implied, but as the effect, let it be remarked, of the Spirit which Adonai put upon them, a Spirit which was upon Moses, a Spirit distinct from his own and which rested upon him. Besides, it plainly appears that it was the Spirit of prophecy, for "when the Spirit rested upon them they prophesied". From all this, then, we learn that what enabled Moses the servant of the Lord to bear the load of the people entrusted to his care was the Spirit of Adonai resting upon him and that when others for his relief were taken into a share of the burden, they had to be taken into a participation of the benefit and that thus Adonai Himself, by His Spirit alone, really presided over all the affairs of the children of Israel. And if we pass from the executing of judgement, to the sacred service of the tabernacle, we shall find that in no respect was it felt to be the product of art and man's device. For not only was Moses warned of God, "See that thou make it according to the pattern which was showed to thee on the mount" but we also read in Exodus 3 1:1-11, “And Adonai spake unto Moses, saying, See I have called by name Bezaleel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones, to them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee; the tabernacle of the congregation, and the ark of the testimony, the mercy-seat that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the tabernacle, and the table and his furniture, and the pure candlestick with all his furniture, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt-offering with all his furniture, and the laver and his foot, and the clothes of service, and the holy garments for Aaron, the priest, mid the garments of his soils, to minister the priests office, and the anointing oil, and sweet incense for the holy place: according to all that I have commanded shall they do.” It was not then by natural genius, or art naturally acquired, whether Bezaleel possessed these or not, but by a wisdom and understanding, a knowledge supernaturally imparted by the Spirit of God, with which God filled him, that he was actuated in all his work about the tabernacle, and the things thereto pertaining. The Spirit of God was the real builder and maker, Bezaleel only an instrument, an intelligent instrument indeed, working with the good skill of his hands, but that a skill which the Spirit of the Lord, filling him, diffused through all his constructive faculties. And here we may also remark that what we have learned about Bezaleel's ingenuity, holds equally true of certain endowments of other persons, which we should be inclined to call natural, did not the Holy Scriptures teach us the contrary. Take for an example the stirring courage of Samson. We read in Judges 13:24,25: "The child grew, and Adonai blessed him, mid the Spirit of Adonai began to move him at times in the camp of Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol." Notes 1. The special name of God (found in some English translations of the Bible in Isaiah 12:2 and elsewhere), in Hebrew YHWH, or Jehovah, is one which Orthodox Jews religiously abstain from pronouncing, substituting "Adonai". The translators of the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament and the authors of the New Testament, who substituted the Greek word Kurios, rendered in most English translations "Lord", followed this practice. 2. A Jewish acronym standing for Torah (the Law), Nevi'im (the Prophets) and Ketuvim (the Writings).
A Sermon by Robert Murray M'Cheyne, preached on 17 November 1839, after returning from a "Mission of Inquiry into the State of the Jewish People", commissioned by the Church of Scotland.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16).
Most people are ashamed of the gospel of Christ. The wise are ashamed of it, because it calls men to believe and not to argue; the prominent are ashamed of it, because it brings all into one body; the rich are ashamed of it, because it is to be had without money and without price; the light-hearted are ashamed of it, because they fear it will destroy all their merriment; and so the "Good News" of the glorious Son of God, having come into the world [an assurance for lost sinners], is despised, uncared for — men are ashamed of it! Who are not ashamed of it? A small company, those whose hearts the Spirit of God has touched. They were once like the unbelieving world, and of it! However, He awakened them to see their sin and misery and that Christ alone was a refuge, and now they cry, "None but Christ! None but Christ! God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ." He is precious to their hearts — He lives there. He is often on their lips, He is praised in their families, and they would gladly proclaim Him to all the world. They have felt in their own experience that the gospel is the power of God to salvation, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Dear friends, is this your experience? Have you received the gospel not in word only, but in power? Has the power of God been put forth upon your soul along with the word? Then this word is yours: I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. One peculiarity in this statement I wish you to take notice of and develop under five headings. Paul glories in the gospel as the power of God to salvation to the Jew first; from which I draw this doctrine — That the gospel should be preached first to the Jewish people.
Because judgement will begin with them
"Indignation and wrath … of the Jew first" (Romans 2:6-10) It is an awful thought that the Jewish people will be the first to stand forward at the bar of God to be judged. When the Great White Throne is established, and He sits down upon it, from whose face the heavens and earth run away; when the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books are opened and the dead are judged out of those things that are written in the books (Revelation 20:11,12) — is it not a striking thought, that Israel — poor blinded Israel — will be the first to stand in judgement before God? "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him — then He will sit upon the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats" — when the awful sentence comes out from His lips — "Depart you who are cursed" (Matthew 25:31-45) When the many who are guilty shall move away from before Him into everlasting punishment, isn't it enough to make the most careless among you pause and consider, that this indignation and wrath shall first come upon the Jewish people — that their faces will become more acutely pale, their knees knock more against each other, and their hearts wither within them more than others? And why is this? Because they have had more light than any other people. God chose them out of the world to be His witnesses. Every prophet was sent first to them; every evangelist and apostle had a message for them. Messiah came to them! He said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24). The Word of God is still addressed to them. They still have it pure and uncorrupted in their hands. Yet, they have sinned against all this light — against all this love. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37) Their cup of wrath is fuller than that of other men — their sea of wrath is deeper. On their very faces you may read, in every land, that the curse of God is over them. Isn't this a valid and just reason, then, why the gospel should first be preached to the Jewish people? They are ready to perish — to perish more dreadfully than other men! The cloud of indignation and wrath that is even now gathering above the lost, will break open first upon the head of guilty, downcast, unbelieving Israel. And have you none of the bowels of Christ in you, that you will not run first to them that are in such a grievous condition? In a hospital, the compassionate physician runs first to that bed where the sick man lies that is closest to death. When a ship is sinking, and the courageous sailors have left the shore to save the sinking crew, do they not stretch out the arm of help first to those that are nearest to sinking towards death beneath the waves? And shall we not do the same for Israel? The incoming tide of God's anger is ready to race first over them - shall we not seek to bring them first to the rock that is higher than they? (Psalm 61:2). Their case is more desperate than that of other men — shall we not bring the Good Physician to them, who alone can bring health and cure? For the Gospel "is the power of God to salvation … to the Jew first, and also for the Greek." I cannot leave this heading without speaking a word to those of you who are in a situation very similar to that of Israel — to you who have the word of God in your hands, and yet are unbelieving and unsaved. In many respects, Scotland may be called God's second Israel. No other land has had its Sabbath as Scotland has; no other land has the Bible as Scotland has; no other land has the gospel preached, free as the air we breathe, fresh as the stream from the everlasting hills. Oh, then, think for a moment, you who sit under the shade of faithful ministers, and yet remain unconcerned and unconverted, and are not brought to sit under the shade of Christ. Think how comparable your wrath will be to that of unbelieving Jewish people! And think again, of the marvellous grace of Christ, that the gospel is first to you. The more that your sins are like scarlet and like crimson, all the more is the blood that washes white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) free to you; for this is still His word to all His ministers, "Begin at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47)
It is like God to care first for the Jewish people
The principal glory and joy of a soul is to be like God. You will remember that this was the glory of that condition in which Adam was created. "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness"(Genesis 1:26). His understanding was without a cloud. He saw, in some measure, as God sees; his will flowed in the same channel with God's will; his affections fastened on the same objects which God also loved. When man fell, we lost all this and became children of the devil, and not children of God. But when a lost soul is brought to Christ, and receives the Holy Spirit, he puts off the old man, and puts on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. It is, therefore, our true joy in this world to be like God. Too many rest in the joy of being forgiven, however our truest joy is to be like Him. Oh beloved, rest not until you are renewed after His image, until you partake of the divine nature. Long for the day when Christ shall appear, and we will be fully like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). Now, what I wish to insist upon at present is that we should be like God even in those things which are exceptional. We should be like Him in understanding, in will, in holiness, and also in His exceptional love. "Love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8). But the whole of Scripture shows that God has an exceptional love for Israel. You will remember, when the Jewish people were in Egypt, sorely oppressed by their taskmasters, that God heard their cry, and appeared to Moses: "I have surely seen the oppression of My people, …and have heard their cry … for I know their sorrows." (Exodus 3:7) And, again, when God brought them through the wilderness, Moses tells them why He did it. "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you" (Deuteronomy 7:7,8). Strange, sovereign, most exceptional love! He loved them — because He loved them. Therefore, shouldn't we be undifferentiated from God in this exceptional attachment? But, you may say, "God has sent them into captivity"! Now, it is indeed true that God has scattered them into every land: "The precious sons of Zion, valuable as fine gold, how they are regarded as clay pots, the work of the hands of the potter!" (Lamentations 4:2) But what does God say of all this? "I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies." (Jeremiah 12:7) It is true that Israel is given for a brief moment into the hand of her enemies, but it is just as true that they are still the dearly beloved of His soul. Shouldn't we give them the same place in our hearts which God gives them in His? Shall we be ashamed to treasure the same affection which our heavenly Father treasures? Shall we be ashamed to be different from the world, and undifferentiated from God, in this exceptional love for captive Israel? But you may say, "God has cast them off!" Has God cast away His people whom he foreknew? God forbid! (Romans 11:1-5)The whole of Holy Scripture contradicts such an idea. "Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him", says the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:20) "Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My Soul." (Jeremiah 32:41) "But Zion said, 'The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.' Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you."(Isaiah 49:14) And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob". (Romans 11:26) Now, the simple question for each of us [and for our beloved Church] is, "Shouldn't we participate with God in His exceptional affection for Israel? If we are filled with the Spirit of God, shouldn't we love as He loves? Shouldn't we engrave Israel upon the palms of our hands, and resolve that through our mercy they also may obtain mercy?" (Isaiah 49:16; Romans 11:31)
Because there is unusual access to the Jewish people
In almost all the countries we have visited, this fact is quite remarkable; indeed, in many places it seems as if the only door left open to the Christian missionary is the door of preaching to the Jewish people.1 We spent some time in Tuscany, the freest state in the whole of Italy. There you dare not preach the gospel to the Roman Catholic population. The moment you give a tract or a Bible it is carried to the priest, and by the priest to the government, and immediate banishment is the certain result. But the door is open to the Jewish people. No man cares for their souls; and therefore you may carry the gospel to them freely. The same is the case in Egypt and in Palestine. You dare not preach the gospel to the deceived followers of Mohammed; but you may stand in the open marketplace and preach the gospel to the Jewish people, no one forbidding you. We visited every town in the Holy Land where Jewish people are found. In Jerusalem and in Hebron we spoke to them "all the words of this life". In Sychar we reasoned with them in the synagogue and in the open bazaar. In Haifa, at the foot of Carmel, we met with them in the synagogue. In Sidon also we discoursed freely to them of Jesus. In Tyre we first visited them in the synagogue and at the house of the Rabbi, and then they returned our visit. When we had lain down in the khan for the heat of mid-day, they came to us in crowds. The Hebrew Scriptures were produced, and passage after passage explained, none making us afraid. In Safat, and Tiberias, and in Acre we had the same freedom. There is indeed perfect liberty in the Holy Land to carry the gospel to the Jewish people.2 In Constantinople, if you were to preach to the Turks, as some have tried, banishment is the consequence; but to the Jewish people you may carry the message. In Wallachia and Moldavia the smallest attempt to convert a Greek would draw down the instant vengeance of the Holy Synod and of the government. But in every town we went freely to the Jewish people. In Bucharest, in Foxany, in Jassy, and in many a remote Wallachian hamlet, we spoke without hindrance the Message to Israel. The door is wide open. In Austria, where no missionary of any kind is allowed, still we found the Jewish people willing to hear. In their synagogues we always found a sanctuary open to us; and often, when they knew they could have exposed us, they concealed that we had been there! In Prussian Poland, the door is wide open to nearly one hundred thousand Jewish people. You dare not preach to the poor Rationalist Protestants. Even in Protestant Prussia this would not be allowed; but you may preach the gospel to the Jewish people. By the law of the land every church is open to an ordained minister, and one of the missionaries assured me that he often preached to four or five hundred Jewish people at a time. Schools for Jewish children taught the way of salvation by a Redeemer. Twelve years ago the Jewish population would not have come near a church. If these things be true, - and I appeal to all of you who know these countries if it is not so - if the door in one direction is shut, and the door to Israel is so widely open, oh, do you not think that God is saying by His providence, as well as by His Word, "go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel"? Do you think that our Church, knowing these things, will be guiltless if we do not obey the call? For the gospel is the power of God, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek'.
Because they will give life to the dead world
I have often thought that a reflective traveller, passing through the countries of this world, and observing the race of Israel in every land, might be led to conclude, merely from the light of his natural reason, that this remarkable people are preserved for some great purpose in the world. There is an exceptional appropriateness in the Jewish people being the missionaries of the world. They have not that peculiar attachment to home and country which we have.3 They feel that they are outcasts in every land. They are also hardened to every climate: they are to be found amid the snows of Russia, and beneath the burning sun of Hindostan. They are also in some measure acquainted with all the languages of the world, and yet have one common language — the holy tongue — in which to communicate with one another.,sup>4 All these things must, I should think, suggest themselves to every intelligent traveller as he passes through other lands. But what does the Word of God say of all this? "And it shall come to pass, that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you, and you shall be a blessing" (Zechariah 8:13). To this day they are a curse among every nation, by their unbelief — by their unique characteristics; but the time is coming when they shall be as great a blessing as they have been a curse. "Then the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples, like dew from the LORD, like showers on the grass, that tarry for no man, nor wait for the sons of men" (Micah 5:7). Just as we have found, among the parched hills of Judah, that the evening dew, coming silently down, gave life to every plant, making the grass spring up and the flowers to spread abroad their sweetest fragrance — so shall converted Israel be when they come as dew upon a dead, dry world. "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you" ' "(Zechariah 8:23) This never has been fulfilled but, as the Word of God is true, this is true. Perhaps someone may say, "If the Jewish people are to be the great missionaries of the world, let us send missions to them only. We have received new light; let us call back our missionaries from India. They are wasting their precious lives there in doing what the Jewish people are supposed to accomplish." I mourn to think that any lover of Israel should pervert the truth so far as to reason in this manner. The Bible does not say that we are to preach only to the Jewish people, but "to the Jew first." "Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations," said the Saviour (Luke 24:47). Let us obey His word like little children. The LORD speed our beloved missionaries in those distant places. The LORD give them good success, and never let one withering doubt cross their pure minds as to their glorious field of labour. All that we plead for is that, in sending out missionaries to the heathens, we may not forget to begin at Jerusalem! If Paul is sent to the Gentiles, then let Peter be sent to the twelve tribes that are scattered abroad; (1 Peter 1:1; see also James 1:1) and do not grant merely a remote corner of your hearts to be given over to this cause; but rather let it be written prominently on your hearts, and on the banner of our beloved Church, "To the Jew first," and, "Beginning at Jerusalem." 5.
Because there is a great reward
"I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you." (Genesis 12:3) "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: may they prosper who love you." (Psalm 122:6) We have felt this in our own souls. In going from country to country, we felt that there was ONE before us preparing our way. Though we have had perils in the waters, and perils in the wilderness, perils from sickness, and perils from the heathen, still the LORD has delivered us from them all; and if it pleases God to restore our cherished companions in this mission in peace and safety to their anxious families 5, we shall then have good reason to say that "in keeping His commandment there is great reward". (Psalm 19:9-11) But, your souls shall be enriched also, and our Church also, if this cause finds its rightful place in your affections. It was well said by one who has a deep place in your affections, and who is now on his way to India, that our Church must not only be evangelical, but evangelistic also, if she would expect the blessing of God. She must not only have the light, but dispense it also if she is to continue as a steward of God. May I take the liberty of adding to this striking declaration that we must not only be evangelistic, but evangelistic as God would have us to be, not only dispense the light on every hand but also dispense it first to the Jewish people. Then shall God revive His work in the midst of the years. Our whole land shall be refreshed as Kilsyth has been. The cobwebs of controversy shall be swept out of our sanctuaries, the distress and jealousies of our Church shall be turned into the harmony of praise, and our own souls become like a well-watered garden.
Updated version by Michael Craddick, Copyright (c) 1995 Christian Witness to Israel, inc. P.O. Box 3I32 Oakton, Virginia 22I24-9I32 Tel./FAX: I703 255 6097 All Scripture quotations are from: The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright (c) I982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.] All rights reserved. Used by permission. Editor's Note: This updated edition of Our Duty to Israel by Robert Murray M'Cheyne, has been edited for language in an effort to bring it into modern English. It is our earnest desire thereby to make this extraordinary sermon more accessible to today's readers. If, by so doing, any distortion or misrepresentation of the author's original message has occurred, this is solely the responsibility of the editor. Every attempt has been made to retain the content and emphasis that the author intended, and to stray as little as possible from the original text. Explanatory margin notes have been added which were not in the original publishing, as well as the biblical references used by the author. Explanatory margin notes and editing are by Michael Lee Craddick.
As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.Romans 11: 28-32
What the apostle is saying in these verses is that a day is coming when the bulk of the nation of Israel is going to believe the gospel. But there are people who do not accept that and say that "all Israel" means the total number of the elect, both Jews and gentiles. Others say that "all Israel" means the total number of the elect Jews. I want to try to show you how the view that we hold on this matter will determine why the apostle wrote the great doxology which starts in verse 33. Remember that whatever exposition you hold to with regard to "all Israel", it has got to lead you onto this tremendous doxology. First, why do I say that this is not a reference to the total number of the elect, both Jews and gentiles? Well, if you say that the "all Israel" of verse 26 is a reference to the total number of the elect of all nations, including the Jews, it means that you are using the word "Israel" in a different sense in verse 26 from that which it has in verse 25. In verse 25 it is a reference to the nation of Israel and I am arguing that the apostle does not suddenly change a meaning like that without telling us first. But, says somebody, What about verse 6 of chapter 9: “Not as though the word of God has taken none effect for they are not all Israel that are of Israel”? They say, Is he not using the same word there in two different senses? and my answer is, No, he is not! All he is showing in that particular verse is that there is an Israel within Israel. No gentiles are involved at all. But according to this other argument, in verse 26 he has brought in gentiles to Israel and still calls them Israel. The apostle does not do that sort of thing. Then somebody says, What about Galatians 6:16 where the apostle talks about “the Israel of God”? Quite so. It is "the Israel of God" and not just Israel. When he is talking about the nation he says "Israel" but when he says "the Israel of God" he is letting you know that he is not talking about the nation. He has not been discussing the nation in the context of Galatians 6 at all. But then my second reason for rejecting this exposition is this: If "all Israel" here in verse 26 simply means the total number of the elect then, in a sense, the statement is bathetic. Instead of leading up to a climax it becomes something ordinary. It does not seem to me to complete the argument. He says, you see, in verse 25, “I would not, brethren, that you be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; but blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the gentiles be come in and so all Israel shall be saved”, and on he goes leading to the doxology. But if he is merely saying that a number of Jews and gentiles are going to be saved, well, I say, there's no climax, its almost a kind of bathos. Why then does he say I have got to tell you a marvellous thing, a mystery? It seems to me to leave out the mystery and leave out the climax. It in no way accounts for the statement of verse 15: "If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?". There's no room for the mystery. It has disappeared altogether and yet that is the greatest thing that the apostle is concerned to say. My third reason for rejecting that exposition is that it does violence to the whole argument of the entire chapter. The issue, not only in this chapter but in chapters 9 and 10, is the Jews as a nation. Has God cast away his people, the nation? That is what he is talking about, that is what he is interested in and so if it is just to end by saying that a given number of Jews and gentiles are going to be saved, the apostle has not answered the question.
William Hendricksen's View
The second alternative exposition is the one that says "all Israel" means the total number of the elect Jews. This at any rate has the advantage of not suddenly changing the meaning of "Israel" in midstream without giving, as it were, any reason for doing so. This does recognise at least that we are talking about Jews. The most convenient way to deal with this interpretation is to read to you, and to answer at the same time, a statement of this particular view given by a most excellent modern commentator and writer, William Hendriksen, in his book "The Bible on the Life Hereafter". He says, "My objections to this explanation” - the explanation I've been putting before you - “are as follows: The context nowhere speaks about national salvation or even about mass salvation. On the contrary it speaks about mass hardening and remnant salvation.” Hendriksen's view really does astound me for this good reason, that the apostle goes out of his way to tell us that the mass hardening is only temporary and he keeps on contrasting what is happening for the time being (the mass hardening and the remnant salvation) with what is going to happen. Here is his second reason: "Our Lord nowhere predicted a national conversion of the Jews". He is right in saying that our Lord in his teaching as we have it in the Gospels did not deal with this question. But why not? Well, we have a specific statement from our Lord to this effect in John 16:12, "I have many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now". There were things which he could not teach them before his crucifixion and before the resurrection. Here in Romans 11, I am suggesting, we have a perfect illustration of that very thing. Our Lord says, "I am going to send the Spirit, he will lead you into all truth. He shall tell you things to come". So revealed to the apostle was this very prophecy of something that was going to come. Our Lord said he could not teach such things at that point, they could not bear it because we read that even after the resurrection they were still in a state of muddle and confusion with regard to these matters. But there is a most interesting statement in Acts 1:6, 7 from the very lips of our Lord himself which it seems to me again answers Hendriksen, "When they therefore were come together they asked him saying, 'Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?', and he said unto them, 'It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in his own power'." Now if Hendriksen was right, there was a wonderful opportunity for our Lord to say, "Look here, do not ask about the restoration, in any sense, of Israel in terms of the kingdom, for Israel is finished as regards the kingdom”. He does not say that. That is a complete answer to the second objection of Hendriksen.
Still a Special People
But let me go on to his third point: “According to the uniform teaching of Paul, special promises or privileges for this or for that national or racial group do not exist in this new dispensation.” Then he refers us to the statements: "There is neither Jew nor gentile, barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, male nor female"; "he hath made of twain one, having broken down the middle wall of partition", and statements to that effect. But there is a very complete answer to this opinion; none of the statements that he quotes has anything whatsoever to do with the matter that is being dealt with in Romans 11. All the apostle is teaching in those other statements is this: that everybody has got to be saved in the same way. All these statements say are that the Jews are wrong to think that they alone are to be saved because they are Jews. That is wrong, all have got to come through faith in Christ, Jew and gentile, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free. That is not what we are concerned with here. The apostle in this 11th chapter of Romans is saying emphatically that everybody has got to be saved in the same way, but when Hendriksen goes beyond that to say that God is no longer interested in this or that particular national or racial group, he is blankly contradicting what the apostle says. Where? In this chapter, first in verse 16: "If the firstfruit be holy the lump is also holy. If the root be holy so are the branches". That is a purely racial statement true only of Jews . Then, of course, in verse 25, "I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery; lest you should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel". Why does he bother to treat Israel separately if there is no purpose in doing so, if all this has ended? And then of course the statement in verse 28, "As concerning the gospel, they (the Jews) are enemies for your sakes". But listen, "but as touching election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes, for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance”.
Salvation is by Grace
Now here is his fourth objection: “God does not reward disobedience!”; as if to say this other exposition is saying that God is going to reward the disobedience of these Jews. But God does not reward obedience either! That is the whole point of verses 30 to 32: in times past you have not believed, yet now have obtained mercy through their unbelief; even so have these now not believed, that through your mercy they may also obtain mercy, for God has concluded all in disobedience. He is not rewarding disobedience. God has concluded all in disobedience in order that he may have mercy upon all. Mercy is entirely undeserved. Hendriksen is ignoring completely the essential argument of the great apostle. But then he comes to what he considers the right view; that throughout this Christian era, as gentiles believe in Christ there will always be just a few Jews in every generation who also believe and that will go on while the gospel is still being preached to the gentiles. He emphasises that just a few Jews will believe so that when the time comes that the gospel era is finished and the fulness of the gentiles will have been gathered in, you will be able to add up the total small number of Jews who have believed from age to age and generation to generation and that constitutes "all Israel". That is his explanation of this great "mystery". But the thing is fatuous for this very reason. There is no mystery about that. Nobody could ever have foretold that the bulk of the Jewish nation will one day be converted and come into the Christian church, but everybody can foretell what we are being told by Hendriksen, that just a few Jews will go on believing and be grafted back. You see, the mystery and the marvel and the great climax has gone. In other words, he completely fails to deal with the meaning of the word “fulness” as it is applied to both Jews and gentiles. Also, he completely misses what is to me the main emphasis of the whole chapter, that the apostle is all along contrasting now and then. This is how it is now, this is going to happen then. All Hendriksen's exposition says is that what has already happened will continue to happen. I ask you, do you designate a thing like that as a great mystery? Would that, if that is all, lead to this tremendous doxology: "O the depth of the riches both ofthe wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are his judgements and his ways past finding out. Who hath known the mind of the Lord or who hath been his counsellor or who hath given to him and it shall be recompensed to him again. For of him and through him and to him are all things, to whom be glory for ever, Amen."? It does not lead to that. It is bathos. God on the whole has been defeated and he has only got a little remnant of the people whom he has created and produced for himself out of the fathers to whom he gave those great and glorious promises. No, no, my friends, when you consider the alternative exposition you surely must come to the conclusion I have come to that there is only one exposition of this chapter, and particularly of this section that we have been dealing with, which in any way leads to the glory of the doxology. It is that at some future time, and we do not know when, but there shall be a tremendous conversion of the mass of the nation of Israel and when it happens the church will be so amazed and astonished that it will veritably be like life from the dead! The impossible has happened, and there is only one explanation of it. The mercy of God and the riches of God's wisdom and grace, passing comprehension, glorious in its wonder, filling us with amazement and astonishment and praise. Amen.
Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) was one of this century's most influential defenders of the Christian faith. He and his wife Edith founded the L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland in 1955 where, over many years, thousands of students found their questions answered, their doubts removed and their minds and spirits renewed through the gospel. Dr. Schaeffer's writings, notably The God Who is There, Escape from Reason and He is There and He is not Silent comprise a powerful critique of modern thought and a defence of biblical Christianity. The following article originally appeared in tract form and in the Autumn 1999 Herald and appears by the kind permission of Dr. Schaeffer's family.
We live in an age in which anti-Semitism is a powerful force. In many lands it has resulted in the death of countless Jews. In our own land it shows itself in various guises from time to time, and even among those who call themselves fundamentalist Christians we find an occasional individual who spends a large portion of his time assailing the Jew. Considering anti-Semitism, the first thing that fixes itself in my thinking is the fact that Christ was a Jew. When we open the New Testament to Matthew 1:1, we find the very first claim made concerning Christ is that he sprang from Abraham and was a descendant of David. The Bible does not say that Jesus just happened to be a Jew, but the Word of God emphasises over and over again that he was a Jew.
Jesus was a Jew
When he was eight days old he was taken to the temple and circumcised, as was every Jewish male. Therefore, we must remember that Jesus bore in His body the physical mark of the Jewish people. At the age of twelve he was dedicated at the temple, again emphasising that his Jewish identity and Jewish faith were not incidental to him but that from his early training they formed his vital human background. The Bible teaches that during his public ministry as an adult man, while repudiating purely human Jewish traditions, his life carefully conformed to Old Testament standards. In fact, he lived in such a way that the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled fully in Him. He was the Jew of all Jews. In His public ministry we find him dealing almost exclusively with the Jews. Hardly ever did he touch a Gentile life. The twelve disciples were all Jews. The earliest church consisted completely of Jews. It was Peter the Jew who spoke to the proselyte, Cornelius. It was the believing Jews, scattered abroad by the persecution that followed the death of Stephen who took the Good News to Antioch in Syria where the first Gentile Christian Church was formed. The missionary who opened up the heathen Roman Empire to the preaching of the Gospel was the Jew, Paul. And if we ask why it was that the Jews received such an important place in the early Christian Church, we must realise that it was not an afterthought in the plan of God. For two thousand years God had been working in history to bring forth this very fact. He called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees as the first Jew when the earth had completely apostatised from the living God. He promised him that the land of Canaan would be his, that he would have numerous seed and, above all things, that all the world would be blessed through him. God called Abraham forth for this specific purpose; that through him the Messiah should come. In the providence of God, for two thousand years the Jewish nation was the cradle of the coming Redeemer.
Before the Messiah
As we examine the history of that two thousand years, we find God constantly reaffirming his promise of the coming Messiah to the Jews, so that not only was the promise made to Abraham but also to Isaac and Jacob, and then it was narrowed down to the tribe of Judah, and then to the royal family — the family of David. As the years passed, God promised that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, that he would suffer, and also that he should rule in Palestine on behalf of His people, the Jews. In those two thousand years in which the way was prepared for the coming of the Messiah, but for the light that shone in Israel, all the earth was in a state of spiritual darkness. While our ancestors worshipped we know not what — but certainly not the living God — the Jews were called God's chosen people. They were separated from all other peoples of the earth. They were beloved of God, a kingdom of priests. In order that the Anointed One should come, even in their times of sin God kept His hand upon them so that a faithful remnant should be His. Jesus was not a Jew by accident, nor was it an incidental thing in the plan of God. According to both the Old Testament and the New Testament, if Jesus had not been born a Jew he could not have been our Saviour. As for the present time in which we live, Romans 11:17-24 teaches that we Gentile believers should not boast against the Jews, "the natural branches" of his Olive Tree, for if God spared not the natural branches, we are warned to take heed lest he spare not us. How clearly it is emphasised that if we who were "wild branches" by nature were grafted "contrary to nature" into the good olive tree, much more shall the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree. And what does Ephesians 2:14 stress to us but that by Jesus' death "the middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile was broken down. Not that the Jew should be cast aside, but that Gentiles should have place with the Jews by faith. Abraham is now our father and, as we Gentiles have put our faith in Christ, we are now spiritual Jews.
The Future of the Jews
The Word of God is explicit still about the future. In Romans 11:25 it is made clear that the blindness which now in part is happened to Israel is not forever, but "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in". And then what is to come to pass? The 26th verse tells us that "all Israel" shall then be saved when the Deliverer "will turn away ungodliness from Jacob". The 29th verse is one that Christians love and use for ourselves, "For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable." We may apply it to ourselves because God never breaks any promise but let us notice that the primary application in this place is to the Jew. God has promised great things for Israel as a nation, and the Word here tells us that he will bring them to pass. If he does not bring them to pass, then "the gifts and calling of God" are not "irrevocable". Clearly, again, in Zechariah 12:10 it is stated that the day will come when the Jews, "will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son." In the day when Israel shall be saved they shall look upon Jesus and know that in His first coming he was their true Messiah. Again, it is not only the Old Testament, which promises that the land of Palestine will once more belong to the Jews. In the New Testament, also, in Luke 21:24, we are told that, "Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled". The Word tells us that the day will come when "all Israel will be saved", that the Jews will "look upon" Jesus as their true Messiah and that the Promised Land will be theirs once more. It is not only for the past, not only for the present, but also for the future, that we who are now Christ's should love the Jew.
The Irrationality of Christian anti-Semitism
We cannot expect the Gentile, who merely uses the term "Christian" to designate the difference between Gentile and Jew and to love the Jew, but we who are Christians indeed, in that we have been saved through faith in Christ, should love his ancient people. Above all things in this regard we should keep constantly in our minds that our Lord Himself was a Jew — born a Jew, lived a Jew, and died a Jew. We should bear in mind also that the great majority of those heroes of the faith I long to see when I go to be with the Lord were Jews. I want to see Abraham, and he was a Jew. I want to see Isaac, and he was a Jew. I want to see Jacob, and he was a Jew. I want to see Joseph, and he was a Jew. I want to see Moses, and he was a Jew. I want to see Joshua, and he was a Jew. I want to see Gideon and the other judges; and they were Jews. I want to see the prophets — Isaiah, Elijah, Elisha and all the rest; and they were all Jews. I want to see Daniel and Ezra and Nehemiah; and they were Jews. I want to see John, and he was a Jew. I want to see James, and he was a Jew. I want to see Peter, and he was a Jew. I want to see Paul, and he was a Jew. Those are only some of those I long to meet who bear the name of Jew. How could I hate the Jewish people? And if this were not enough for those of us who are Bible-believing Christians, let us note the command of God in Romans 11:31. He tells us clearly what our attitude in this age should be to natural Israel. We should show mercy to them and, my friends, mercy and anti-Semitism — in any form — do not live in the same household. We cannot seek to win the Jewish people individually to the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour if in our hearts we despise them as a people. Not long ago an influential Jew in New York City, the Labor Editor of one of the New York papers, quoted to me a little poem which he said was widely repeated among the Jews of that city. As I have considered this rhyme, I have found it to be more than an interesting jingle. It speaks wisdom concerning the man who bears the name of Christian and yet is anti-Semitic in his thinking.
How odd of God to choose the Jews.
But not so odd as those who choose
The Jewish God and hate the Jews.