Rom. ix. 1-5; Luke i. 30~33
The Past, Present and Future of the Jews.
The substance of an address given by Mr. Alexander Stewart, at a meeting of the
Jewish Medical Mission, Glasgow, March 16th, 1912.
THE first of these passages shows us the inalienable privileges of the Jewish people, the second shows the relation of the Lord Jesus Christ to that people. It is also a pledge of their continuance as a nation, for they must exist till the promise therein contained is fulfilled. In Luke i. 30-33, we see the threefold Sonship of our Lord. He is the Son of the Highest; that is His divinity; He is the Son of Mary, that is His humanity, and He is also the Son of David, and as such, He is King of Israel and shall yet sit on the throne of David.
By far the greater part of the Bible was written by Jews and concerning the Jewish people. There is in the Scriptures teaching regarding the other nations of the earth, and teaching with respect to the Church of God, but the bulk of the Book concerns Israel. Paul, once known as Saul of Tarsus, who wrote the passage in Romans ix., was, like the other Saul of whom we read earlier in the record, an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin, and the crowning point in the sum of advantages of the Jew, which he enumerates in this passage, is that of that race, as concerning the flesh, Christ came. It follows that Christians ought to have a deep interest in the people of Israel.
I propose to speak of the past, the present, and the future of the Jews.
1. Their Past.—They have their origin from one man, chosen of God, namely, Abraham. Each Jew now living, if his genealogy could be traced, would be found to be a descendant of Abraham. According to His promise in Gen. xii. 2, God made, of Abraham, a nation, the nation of Israel. His descendants became manifested as a nation at the Exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. They were, as yet, without a country, but after passing through the wilderness, they entered, under Joshua, into the land which God had promised to give them, the land of Canaan, which henceforth became their country. In that land, they came to possess the city of Jerusalem, and in that city the temple, the house of God, was built. Their history in the land is a history of iniquity. They broke God's law, they stoned His prophets, they crucifìed His Son, they resisted the Holy Ghost, and because of their sins, wrath has come upon them to the uttermost (1 Thess. ii. 16). They have been driven from their land and scattered among the nations.
2. Their Present.—Though scattered and under the judgment of God, they are preserved. They cannot be destroyed. As Dr. Adolph Saphir, one of themselves, has said, "Pharaoh tried to drown them, but they would not drown; Haman tried to hang them, but they would not hang; Nebuchadnezzar tried to burn them, but they would not burn." They are as Cain was. They have gone forth with the blood of Christ on their heads, in accordance with their own imprecation (Matt, xxvii. 25), and they wander, but none may destroy them. Their emblem is the bush which Moses saw, which burned, but was not consumed. God was in the bush, and God is the Preserver of Israel (Exod. iii. 2-4).
3. Their Future.—The past and present of Israel are dark with sin, but their future is bright with the glory of God. In the passage in Rom. ix., it is said that to them, the glory pertains. When Stephen, about to be stoned, addressed the Council at Jerusalem, he said, going back to the origin of the people, "The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham. " (Acts vii. 2). Note the title which is here used—the God of glory. When Stephen had finished his address and was about to be put to death, he looked up steadfastly into Heaven and saw there the glory of God (v. 55). That glory had had its dwelling-place in the house of God at Jerusalem, and it will again appear in the holy city. Its relation to the house is seen in vision by the prophet Ezekiel. He sees it leaving the house, yet lingering, as though in sad reluctance, ere it actually departs (Ezek. ix. 3, x. 4, xi. 23). Later, in the same prophecy, it is seen coming from the way of the east and again filling the house (xliii. 2, 4, 5). The glory of God, beheld in Heaven by Stephen, will return to earth and will find a resting-place in Jerusalem. It will yet be said to Israel, "Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee" (Isa. lx. 1). And again we read concerning Jerusalem, "I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her" (Zech. ii. 5). The whole course of Israel from first to last is shown to us, in history and prophecy, in the Scriptures. The beginning of it is the appearance to Abraham of the God of glory, and the end of it is the glory of God seen upon Israel. And observe, as has been pointed out, that the glory is not inherent in Israel, but is external to that people. Their God is their glory.
The Lord Jesus Christ died for individual believers; He loved the Church and gave Himself for it, but He also died for the nation of Israel. Of no other nation than Israel can it be said that He died for it. Isaiah says, "For the transgression of My people was He stricken" (Isa. liii. 8), and, without contradiction, the people referred to are the Jewish people. Long afterwards, Caiaphas the high priest prophesied that He should die for that nation (John xi. 49-51). In virtue of the precious blood shed on the Cross, the sins of the nation will be forgiven, and the people will also, as a nation, be spiritually renewed. God will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Him forever (Jer. xxxii. 39). They will be under the new and everlasting covenant (v. 40), and then will be seen what never yet has been seen, a regenerate nation in which all shall know God from the least to the greatest (Heb. viii. 11). The promise of the Kingdom shall be fulfilled, and the Son of David shall reign over the house of Jacob.
The blessing of the other nations of the earth is conditioned on the blessing of Israel. "God be merciful to us and bless us," says the psalmist, " and cause Thy face to shine upon us, that Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations " (Ps. lxvii. 1, 2). The original promise to Abraham (Gen. xii.) stands sure and shall have fulfilment, "In thy seed shall all families of the earth be blessed."