The Nation of Israel
Another has clearly pointed out that a review of Israel’s history reveals that God is dealing with them in four cycles of time, each of approximately 490 years. Prom the call of Abraham unto the Exodus, is the first. Abraham was 75 years old when called to leave his country, his kindred, and his father’s house. The law was 430 years later. Deduct about 15 years for Abraham’s departure from the path of faith and you have a period of 490 years.
The second Is from the Exodus to the dedication of the temple. Solomon began building 480 years after the Exodus (1 Kings 6:1). He was seven years building it and perhaps three years at its official dedication. These together make the second cycle of 490 year. Mr. J. T. Mawson in his How to Overcome, says, “Actually, according to Acts 13, there are 93 years omitted from God’s reckoning. These are accounted for by numbering the years that Israel was robbed of her sovereignty in the Book of Judges; 8 years under Mesopotamia (3:8), 18 years under Moab (3:14), 20 years under Canaan (4:3), 7 years under Midian (6:1), 40 years under Philistia (13:1).” The sum total of all these is 93 years.
Mr. Mawson also points out that the 18 years under the Amorites (Judges 10:8) took place on the other side of Jordan, and, therefore, do not affect the question at all.
From the dedication of the temple to the close of the Babylonish captivity, is approximately 560 years. Deduct 70 years for the captivity and you have the third cycle of 490 years.
From Artaxerxes’ decree (Neh. 2), to the establishing of the Millennial reign of Christ, 70 weeks or 490 years were determined. Messiah was to be cut off at the end of the 69th week or 483 years. There are still 7 years of Jewish time to be reckoned. Israel is a rejected nation since her rejection of the Messiah. During her rejection, time is not reckoned to her, but instead the Church dispensation comes in, and continues between the 69th and the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy (Dan. 9). When the Church is called home, and the 7 years of Jewish time are finished, Messiah will return to earth with the 6 great blessings of Dan. 9:24. What a portion there will be for a restored Israel and a Millennial Earth!
The Meaning Of Their Calling
This calling was threefold; God needed a repository on earth in which He could preserve His Word among men, “Unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2). He needed a channel through which the Redeemer could be brought into the world, “Of whom concerning the flesh Christ came, Who is over all, God blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5). Moreover, He needed a witness to men that could throw the light of testimony upon the path of all, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17, Marg.)
The Marring Of Their Testimony
The sins that destroyed their witness could be classified in five groups; idolatry, disobedience, division, unfaithfulness, and isolation. Their idolatry destroyed the supremacy of God in their midst, their disobedience rejected the authority of His Word, their division weakened their testimony before the nations. In their unfaithfulness, they refused the responsibilities that devolved upon them by virtue of their calling, and in their isolation the missionary spirit remained dormant and inactive.
The Measure Of Their Discipline
God’s chastisement upon Israel was measured in proportion to their sins. We now shall look at three aspects of the judgment that fell upon them:
The captivities: Both the Assyrian and Babylonish captivities were the result of the exhaustion of divine patience by a wilful persistence in sin till there was no remedy (2 Chron. 36:16). Yet, in the three stages of the Babylonish captivity, under Jehoiakim, Jehoiakim his son, and Zedekiah, we see God’s reluctance to give them up. Their captivity was a witness against their idolatry. The irony of punishment is seen in that the inventor of idolatry becomes the instrument of their destruction. They were carried back to the very place from which the God of Glory had brought their father Abraham. This act of discipline surely indicated that they had forfeited every promise made by God to His friend, Abraham. Sovereign grace alone would give them a new start in restoration. What a commentary on our Lord’s words, “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again!” It is most interesting to note that since their captivity, idolatry has been unknown in Israel. What does God want to teach us by this incident? Simply this, sin or sins that displace the Lordship of Christ in our lives, and which we refuse to judge, will become master of us to the destruction of our testimony.
Their captivity was also a witness against their disobedience (2 Chron. 36:21). Seventy years were allowed the land for rest, the rest they refused to give it during the 490 years from the dedication of the temple unto their captivity. Thus the land enjoyed its sabbaths while Israel languished in Babylon. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).
In the third place, their captivity was a witness against their division. The animosity between the house of Saul and the house of David gradually led up to the parting of the tribes. The open break came as the result of the intolerance of Rehoboam with his whips, and the tendency of Jeroboam to idolatry. Extremists with unbending will and full of their own importance are an affliction to the saints at all times. When the seeds of discord are permitted to be sown unchecked, when the flesh with its malice, envy, bitterness and strife is unrestrained and unjudged, an open break is inevitable, and this always results in the dishonour of God and the shame of the testimony, “For if we judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” Now during Israel’s captivity, the Babylonish empire eats up the Assyrian empire and the ten tribes and the two are together again, but, alas, not under the supremacy of God, but under the power of Nebuchadnezzar.
The divine silence: From Malachi unto the coming of Christ, there is a period of silence in which Israel is left without a vision or a prophet. The grace of God had brought about their restoration from Babylon. This restoration had taken place in three stages; the first under Zerubbabel, the second under Ezra, and the last under Nehemiah. These three stages showed Israel’s reluctance to return to the path of God’s will. The descendants of this godly remnant degenerate into what is described in the Book of Malachi. God then leaves them alone to the punishment of a silent heaven. This was God’s answer to their unfaithfulness. Since their voice of testimony was silent to the nations around them, God would be silent to them. That silence was broken in the voice of John the Baptist as he called them to repentance, and by the voice of the Messiah as He called them to be followers of Himself. Well might our prayer today be that of the Psalmist, “Be not silent to me: lest if Thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit” (Psa. 28:1)!
The scattering of Israel among the nations: For two thousand years the Jewish people have been scattered among the nations in the greatest dispersion of their history. It is the awful result of the greatest crime of their history, the crucifixion of Christ. The sin of isolationism finds its flower in the sects of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. In their ecclesiastical bigotry, they displaced judgment, mercy, and faith. In their pride, they despised the poor in spirit, while their self-centredness robbed them of compassion for the ignorant and them that are out of the way. When their degeneracy was exposed by the Lord Jesus Christ, their anger knew no bounds. Even Pilate knew that for envy they had delivered Him.
The eleventh chapter of Romans applies the lessons of their fall and punishment to the professing Church today. Are the branches of the olive tree broken off, and we the wild olive grafted in? “Boast not against the branches. … Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee” (Rom. 11:18-21).
The Church like Israel is the repository of God’s truth on earth (2 Tim. 1:14. Jude 3). Let us not reject the authority of that truth both for our individual lives and for the assemblies. The Church too is the vessel through which the Redeemer is brought to men. Let us yield to the Master’s touch and become channels of blessing to others. We are the city set on a hill whose light cannot be hid. Let none of the sins that caused Israel’s downfall be allowed to remain unjudged lest they mar our testimony for God. If we have failed, and who of us has not, let us repent and get back to God so that nothing may clog the seven pipes by which the golden oil is conveyed to the lamps of our testimony.
Their Millennial Blessing At Last
Israel will yet be restored as a nation. Two thirds of the nation will be destroyed in unbelief during tribulation days, one third will be brought through fires of the great tribulation and purified to look on Him Whom they pierced (Zech. 13:8-9). Israel, as the head of the nations and not the tail, will enjoy the great Millennial Kingdom of their Messiah. “If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead” (Rom. 11:15)?
At the end of the last seven years of their history, which will complete the last cycle of 490 years, Messiah will come and the six great blessings of Daniel will be their portion as a restored people, and the portion of the Millennial world: “To finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconcilliation for iniquity and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision of prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy” (Dan. 9:24).
A gentleman was distributing tracts near a sports stadium when a onetime friend came along. Handing him a tract the gentleman asked, “Where are you going?” “I’m going to pass an hour away inside here,” he replied. “What are you doing?” “Oh,” said the other, “I’m redeeming the time.”