For the week of January 12, 2008 / 5 Shevat 5768
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 10:1 - 13:16
Haftarah: Jeremiah 46:13-28
Fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the LORD, for I am with you. I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished. (Jeremiah 46:28; ESV).
The Bible clearly states that God has an eternal plan and purpose for the physical descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In spite of the people of Israel's failure to fully live up to God's standards, God is determined to establish them as a nation before him forever. Throughout history, even though claiming to accept the validity of the Scriptures, Christians have often denied this. While many Jewish people have failed to understand God's desire to extend his love to all nations, Christians have tended to overly spiritualize the Bible's promises to the Jewish people.
In the Hebrew Scriptures we see how God reveals himself primarily to the people of Israel. This revelation of himself was not just for them. God was using his interactions with this one nation to prepare the rest of the world to get to know him. The failure of Israel to obey God's Torah was to show the world that no one can live up to God's standards. In the midst of God's judgment of our disobedience, he promised us that he would deliver us, not just from our enemies, but from our spiritual dilemma. God's promises of salvation eventually centered on a person, the Messiah, whose mission would be to both rescue us from our oppressors and effect everlasting spiritual transformation.
These promises also hinted that God's transformation of the people of Israel would have world-wide ramifications. As God would change the hearts of his covenant people, so he would establish his rule over all the earth, and all nations would submit to him.
In the New Testament we read how Yeshua fulfills the prophesies of the Hebrew Scriptures. His prime mission was to his own people as the Messiah, but the spiritual restoration that he sought to bring to us was not just for us, but for all who would trust in him.
It is through Yeshua that we understand that the restoration of Israel is primarily a spiritual one. God's rule is something that first and foremost occurs in our hearts. Non-Jewish Christians, having grasped this, as well as the fact that God's desire for restoration with himself was not exclusively a Jewish matter, began to assert that the words of hope originally given to the Jewish people were not to be taken literally, but rather spiritualized. They failed to grasp this complex truth.
What they failed to understand is that the essential spiritual nature of God's promises to the people of Israel, along with God's plan to include all who put their trust in the Messiah, in no way negates the original intentions of his promises. An emphasis that undermines God's original intentions in his promises, is a denial of the Scriptures.
We read in this week's Haftarah of God's ongoing commitment to the Jewish people. In the midst of severe judgment, God makes a clear distinction between them and their oppressors. Even though God used Israel's enemies as instruments of judgment, he will make a complete end of them. But as for Israel, while they will be disciplined, unlike their enemies, they will not be destroyed.
God's plans and purposes in and through the Jewish people are complex. The Scriptures record his dealings with them over the centuries, yet all the while his concern is not for them alone, but for all people. As for the Jewish people themselves, there is another layer of complexity as expressed through these words of Jeremiah. God can be so strict with us yet at the same time be committed to our eternal well being. When we fail to grasp the complexity of God's truth, we fail to grasp his truth at all.
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