Lecture 10 of 11 on "The Hopes of the Church of God"

Isaiah 1.

Same subject as the preceding and Manner of its Accomplishment.

J. N. Darby.

<02020E> 362

Some passages of Scripture upon the destiny of the Jews, which at our last meeting there was not time to quote, will terminate our sketch of historical prophecy concerning this people; I say historical, because prophecy is the history which God has given us of futurity.

I would again remind you of that important fact, that Jewish history is especially the manifestation of the glory of Jehovah. To ask, In what does this history concern us? is to say, Of what use is it that I should know what my Father is about to do for my brethren and the manifestation of His character in His acts?

363 It is evident, from the place which the subject occupies in His word, that their affairs are very dear to our God and Father, if they be not to us. It is in this people, by the ways of God revealed to them, that the character of Jehovah is fully revealed, that the nations will know Jehovah, and that we shall ourselves learn to know Him.

The same person may be king of a country, and father of a family; and this is the difference between God's actings towards us and the Jews. Towards the church, it is the character of Father; towards the Jews, it is the character of Jehovah, the King. His faithfulness, unchangeableness, His almighty power, His government of the whole earth - all this is revealed in His relationship towards Israel; it is in this way that the history of this people lets us into the character of Jehovah.

Psalm 126. "When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion … then said they among the heathen, The Lord has done great things for them." See, on the same subject, Ezekiel 39:6-7: "And I will send a fire on Magog, on them that dwell carelessly in the isles; and they shall know that I am the Lord. So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord [Jehovah], the Holy One in Israel." Verse 28: "Then shall they know that I am the Lord [Jehovah] their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen; but I have gathered them to their own land, and have left none of them any more there." This is the way in which Jehovah reveals Himself. The Father reveals Himself to our souls by the gospel, by the spirit of adoption; but Jehovah makes Himself known by His judgments - by the exercise of His power on the earth. I have said, that the Father reveals Himself by the gospel, because the gospel is a system of pure grace - a system which teaches us to act towards others on the principle of pure grace, as we have been acted on by the Father. It is not "eye for eye, tooth for tooth"; it is not what justice requires, the law of retaliation, or equity; but a principle according to which I ought to "be perfect, as my Father is perfect." But it will not be mere grace that is suffering evil and doing good, in the government of Jehovah. Jehovah, without doubt, will bless the nations; but the character of His kingdom is, that "judgment shall return to righteousness," Psalm 94:15. At the first coming of Jesus Christ, judgment was with Pilate, and righteousness with Jesus; but when Jesus shall return, judgment shall be united to righteousness. The people of Christ now, the children of God, ought to follow the example of the Saviour (that is, not expect or wish that judgment should be in the rigour of righteousness; but they should be gentle and humble in the midst of all the wrongs which they suffer on the part of man). United to Christ, they are indemnified for all their wrongs in the strength of His intimate love, which comforts them by the consolations of the presence of His Spirit; and, more than this, by the hopes of the heavenly glory. On the other hand, Jehovah will console His people by the direct acting of His righteousness in their favour (see Psalm 65:5), and by re-establishing them in earthly glory. The Jews, then, are the people by whom, and in whom, God sustains His name of Jehovah, and His character of judgment and righteousness. The church are the people in whom, as in His family, the Father reveals His character of goodness and love.

364 We have already touched upon the events which will happen to the Jews in the last time, by the quotations from Jeremiah, chapters 30 to 33; and from Ezekiel 36 to 39. I will now cite a few other passages to the same effect, following the order of the prophets.

Daniel 12:1 … it is the presence of him who will act for the people of Daniel, that is, for the Jewish people.

There are a few remarkable traits in this prophecy. First, God in His power, by the ministry of Michael, is to stand up for the children of Daniel's people; and it is to be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation. In this we have a clue to Matthew 24 and Mark 13:19.

The resurrection (Dan. 12:2) applies to the Jews. "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake." You find the same expression in Isaiah 26: "Thy dead shall live; …" and in Ezekiel 37:12. It is a figurative resurrection of the people, buried as a nation among the Gentiles. In this revival it is said of those who rise, "Some to shame and everlasting contempt." This is what will happen to the Jews. Of those brought out from among the nations, some shall enjoy eternal life, but some shall be subject to shame and everlasting contempt; Isaiah 66:24. At the time of the accomplishment of this prophecy all of Daniel's people are not brought up from among the nations. In a word, on the one hand, God standing up for His people in a time of distress; and, on the other, a remnant delivered - such is a summary of Daniel 12.

365 In Hosea 2:14 to the end, we see that the Lord will receive Israel, will bring her into the land, after having humbled her, but having spoken to her also after His own heart, and will make her such as she was in the days of her youth; that Jehovah will make a covenant with her, and bless her in every kind of way on this earth, and will betroth her to Himself for ever.

But more. There is an uninterrupted chain of blessings from Jehovah Himself, down to the earthly blessings poured out in abundance upon Israel, who is the seed of God (for this is the force of the word 'Jezreel'). On this account there is added (v. 23), "I will sow her unto me in the earth." For Israel will become the instrument of blessing to the earth, as life from amongst the dead. At this time all is hindered by sin; spiritual wickedness is now "in heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12); and every description of misery abounds, accompanied though it be with many blessings (for God makes "all things work together for good to them that love him"); but at that time there will be a fulness of earthly blessing.

Hosea 3:4-5. "For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim. Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days." They shall have neither the true God nor a false god (so it is with them now); but after that they shall seek Jehovah and David - the well-beloved, or Christ.

Joel 3:1, 16-18, 20-21. After having spoken of the nations at the time of the return of His people from captivity (v. 1-15), and the judgments exercised upon the Gentiles, God speaks in the latter verses of the Jews. Jerusalem is to be holy; Jehovah will dwell in Zion; He will be the hope of His people, and the strength of the children of Israel. This will be their case when the judgment of God shall fall upon the nations.

Amos 9:14-15. "And I will bring again the captivity of my people … and I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up." This is not yet accomplished. Verses 11, 12, of this chapter, are quoted in Acts 15, not for the purpose of showing that the prophecy had then come to pass; but to prove that God had all along determined upon having a people from out of the Gentiles; and that, therefore, the language of the prophets agreed with that which Simon Peter had been relating of what God had done in his days. It is not the accomplishment of a prophecy, but the establishing of a principle by the mouth of the prophets, as well as by the word of the Spirit through Simon Peter.

366 Micah 4:1-8. Nor is this yet brought to pass. It is, so to speak, a topographical description of Jerusalem, when her first dominion is restored. In Micah 5:4, 7-8, the name of Christ is respected and great to the ends of the earth, Israel everywhere the dew of divine blessing, and coming off victorious against all who oppose her. With regard to Micah, you will remark (as was observed in a former lecture) how, in Micah 7:19-20, the Spirit adverts to the promises made to the fathers without condition.

Zephaniah 3:12, to the end. What language is this? God is said to be "silent [see margin] in his love"; He is so moved that He is "silent." On whom does he lavish all this? Read verse 13: "The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies, neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid." Jehovah is in the midst of them, and nothing can disturb them.

Zechariah 1:15, 17-21. Mention is here made of the four monarchies who scattered Israel, as themselves scattered by the force of the judgments of God. Zechariah 9:9, to the end. "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King comes to thee … ." This, you will assert, is already accomplished. No; only in part. The Holy Spirit, in the New Testament (John 12:15), cites this passage; but with the omission of the words "He is just, and having salvation" (saving himself, margin). Jesus, in fact, cared not for Himself. When they said to Him mocking Him, "If thou be the Son of God come down from the cross," He took no notice. He hid not Himself from grief: far from saving Himself, He saved us; He spared not Himself that we might be spared. Zechariah 10:6, to the end. When was it that Israel had been as "though the Lord had not cast them off?" Never.

367 Let us now turn to some passages which will show that, though the people of Israel will be restored in their land, there will only be a remnant saved. Zechariah 12:2 mentions a time of war, even of all the people round about, the people of the earth, against Jerusalem: but God will defend the city and its inhabitants in a miraculous manner, and the nations will be destroyed (v. 9). The spirit of grace and supplication shall be poured out upon the remnant of Israel - "all the families that remain"; and "they shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and mourn."

Isaiah 18. Whatever critical difficulties exist in this chapter, its great object is too evident to be obscured by any rendering whatever. The rivers of Cush are the Nile and Euphrates.* The enemies of Israel, in the biblical part of their history, were situated on these two rivers. There is, in this prophecy, a call made to a country which is beyond them, to a distant land, which had never, at the time of the prophecy, come into association with Israel. The prophet has then in his view some country which would later come upon the scene. Verse 3: God bids all the inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, to take cognisance. The nations are to have their eyes upon Israel; they are summoned by God to pay attention to what was taking place as to Jerusalem; they are all interested in her fate. The world is invited to watch the judgments about to take place. In the meanwhile (v. 4), God takes His rest, and lets the nations act of themselves: Israel has returned into her land (v. 5, 6).
{*We learn from Dr. Hales' Analysis of Chronology, vol. 1, p. 379, that the descendants of Cush extended their settlements from Chusistan, "the land of Cush," or Susiana, on the coast of the Persian gulf (into which the Euphrates falls), through Arabia to the Red sea, and thence crossed into Africa beyond the Nile. The rivers of Cush may therefore well mean the Nile and Euphrates. He also makes (p. 355) the descendants of Nimrod settled in Assyria to be called Chusdim, or "Godlike Cushites." (p. 354.) [Tr.]}

It is a description of Israel returning into Judea by the help of some nation at a distance from the scene itself, which is neither Babylon or Egypt, nor other nations who meddled in their affairs of old. We say not that it is France, or Russia, or England. The Israelites return to their land, but God takes no notice of them. Israel is abandoned to the nations; and when everything would appear as if it were going to bear fruit (v. 5) anew, behold the sprigs and branches cut down, and left to the fowls of the air to summer on, and to the beasts of the field to winter on (which terms are designations of the Gentiles). Nevertheless, at that time a present of this people shall be brought to the Lord of hosts, and from this people "to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion."

368 Psalm 126:4. "Turn again our captivity, O Lord." Zion and Judah will be first brought back. The captives of Zion were already brought back when this prayer was presented to God (v. 1); they are but the earnest of what God will do in the restoration of all Israel.

But it is fitting, here, to touch on the manner of God's dealing with the houses of Judah and Israel in their judgment and dispersion. The first to be gathered are those who rejected Jesus, those who were guilty of His death. The ten tribes, as such, were not guilty of this crime; the ten tribes were dispersed before the introduction of the four monarchies into the rule of the world. It was the Assyrians who led captive the ten tribes, before Babylon had existence as an empire. A circumstance relating to a Jewish family or tribe (Jer. 35:1-10), found living in the midst of the Arabs, is related of Mr. Wolff, who visited it of late years. These Jews say of themselves, that they are descended from some who refused to return to Judea with Ezra, because they knew that those who returned with Ezra would put the Messiah to death; and for this reason they remained where they were. Even though this be false, the existence of such a tradition is not a little wonderful. One thing is evident that those who rejected the Christ will be subjected to the Antichrist; they will make "a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell" (Isa. 28:15); but their covenant will destroy all their hopes; having united themselves to Antichrist, they will undergo the consequence of this alliance, and at last will be destroyed. Two thirds of the inhabitants will be cut off in the country of Israel itself after their return; Zech. 13:8-9.

But with the ten tribes the occurrences are different, as we know from Ezekiel 20:32-39. Instead of two parts cut off in the land, the rebels - that is, the disobedient and rebellious ones among them - will not enter at all into Canaan. God does with them, as He did with Israel upon their rebellion after their coming out from Egypt; He destroys them without their even seeing it.

369 Thus there are two classes, so to speak, of Jews, in this return. First, the Jewish nation, properly speaking - namely, Judah, and those allied with her in the rejection of the true Christ: they will be in connection with the Antichrist, and of them two thirds will be cut off in the land. Secondly, those of the ten tribes coming up, of whom some will be cut off in the wilderness on their way into the land.

Matthew 23:37-39. This prediction, delivered by Jesus Himself, gives us the assurance of the coming of Christ to restore Israel, and reign in her midst: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, … your house is left to you desolate … till ye shall say, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord."

Israel will see Jesus, but it will be when this word of Psalm 118:26 shall go out of her mouth. The psalm itself gives a happy picture of her joy at that time; and out of it the Saviour drew the announcement of the judgment which He pronounced against the Jewish rulers upon their rejection of Him: "The stone, which the builders refused, is become the head stone of the corner." Out of this psalm, also, is drawn the joyful salutation with which the little children welcomed Him in the temple with Hosannahs - fit precursors of those who, in happier times yet to come, will receive the hearts of little children, and will confess that Saviour formerly rejected by their fathers! It is this psalm which celebrates the exaltation and blessing of Israel - that blessing due to the faithfulness of Jehovah alone, whilst it points out the sin of the nation in rejecting "the stone" which was to become the foundation of God in Zion; but which was also, by the unbelief of that nation, the "stone of stumbling" and of judgment.

Besides these two classes of Israelites who will return by providential agency, but still of their own free accord, the Lord after His appearance will gather together from among the Gentiles the elect of the Jewish nation, who will be yet among the nations; and this return will be accompanied with great blessing. (See Matthew 24 31; compare Isaiah 27:12-13, and Isa. 11:10, 12.)

We subjoin two principles, very simple and clear, which distinguish all preceding blessings (as, for instance, the return from Babylon) from the accomplishment of the prophecies of which we have been speaking.

These two principles are: firstly, That the blessings flow from the presence of Christ, Son of David. Secondly, That they are a consequence of the new covenant. Neither one nor the other of these conditions was fulfilled at the return from Babylon, nor has it been since. The gospel does not occupy itself with the earthly blessings of the Jews, which is the matter of these prophecies.