I say then, Has God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.…
I. THEIR NATIONAL PRESERVATION THROUGH SO LONG A TRACT OF TIME WILL FURNISH A WONDERFUL ILLUSTRATION OF THE DIVINE POWER.
1. They can look back along a line of ancestry compared with which that of the Norman and the Saxon are but of yesterday. Nations which did not exist till long after the Jew had acquired a history, have long ago run their course; but he is unchanged.
2. Nor will any of the ordinary means of national preservation account for their continuance.
(1) They have not, like the Chinese, been stationary, and built in from the rest of the human family. From about B.C. 740, till the destruction of Jerusalem, they suffered as many dispersions, partial or entire, as there were centuries.
(2) Foreign alliances will not explain it. For, besides the fiercest commotions within, they have sustained a quick succession of the most sanguinary invasions from without.
(3) Arms, climate, genius, politics, equally fail to explain it. For they have been crumbled and scattered over the face of the earth; and yet they exist. Old empires which oppressed them have fallen; but the Jew has lived on amidst their ruins. "Young nations have started into being, and he has been present to mingle with their elements, but never uniting. And, as if to complete the wonder, their number at this moment is very nearly the same as it was on their leaving Egypt.
3. Now, the only way to account for their preservation is the scriptural one, viz., to ascribe it to Divine power. "I am God, I change not; therefore, ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." When, then, they shall be turned to the Lord, with what new emphasis and enlarged meaning will they have to sing Psalm 124.
II. God shall be glorified when it shall be seen that THIS PRESERVATION HAS NOT BEEN EFFECTED BY MERE POWER, BUT THAT, FROM FIRST TO LAST, THAT POWER WAS UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF WISDOM, or was exercised according to a plan. A new light is dawning on the mind of men respecting this plan.
1. Formerly the historian only recorded facts. But now it has occurred to him that all the facts of history are connected; that could the principles of this connection be traced history would form one organic whole; and hence, to trace and to expound these principles is now the highest office of the historian — the philosophy of history.
2. Every lover of the Bible, however, should remember that its histories were never written in any other way. It both states the facts, and the principles which unite them. True, after sketching the early history of the race, it confines its history to the Jews. But in that you have, in effect, a type of the whole. And more; in that, you frequently catch glimpses of the others at the most eventful moments of their existence. And more still; the Bible is prophetic as well as historic. Before Herodotus had begun to amass his materials, Isaiah had sung the glory of the latter day; and Daniel had foretold the kingdoms which would arise to the end of time.
3. The Bible never speaks of the course of human events but as conducted on a great plan. And with this peculiarity, that from the time of the promise to Abraham, the entire plan was regulated in relation to his posterity. Nay, ages earlier than that the plan began to evolve (Deuteronomy 32:7, 8). The great principle on which the habitable part of the globe was mapped out was a principle of relation to the chosen people. And, as the great drama of Providence unfolded, the civilised world invariably found itself involved with that people. Read Psalm 78th, 105th, and 106th, and do you not hear Jehovah, as He leads them through the nations, saying, "Touch not Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm"? Are they invaded and oppressed? "Who delivered up Jacob to be a spoil, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not Jehovah?" Does the Assyrian afflict Israel? "The Assyrian, saith God, is the rod of My hand." Does the Persian deliver Israel? God calls Cyrus by name. Did nations change hands in consequence of the Persian movement? "I have given Egypt for thy ransom; Cush and Sheba for thee." Have the ancient persecutors of Israel perished? Their destruction was foretold! And when, at length, "the time shall have come, yea, the set time to favour Zion," what ground will there be for saying, "Ye know... that not one thing has failed of all that the Lord your God spake concerning you"!
III. God's glory shall be enhanced when it shall appear that THE ENTIRE PLAN OF HIS CONDUCT TOWARDS ISRAEL HAS DIRECTLY TENDED TO PROMOTE THEIR HIGHEST WELFARE BY ILLUSTRATING THE GREAT PRINCIPLES OF HIS MORAL GOVERNMENT.
1. The principle of mediation — of making the conduct or relationship of one a reason for blessing others. "God hath not cast away His people." They are still beloved "for the fathers' sakes," and their conversion will, at length, establish this fact. It will show them that they have never been absolutely renounced, and why Abraham himself was beloved, and that there never was but "one Mediator between God and man," the day of whose coming Abraham saw and was glad.
2. Justice (ver. 22). Looking back on their history they will behold it covered with the memorials of the Divine displeasure against sin, and learn that every stroke of His fatherly chastisement was intended to bring them in penitence to His feet.
3. The bringing of good out of evil. It will be seen that God has made the mutual jealousy of the Jew and Gentile an occasion of good to each. The apostacy of the human race was the occasion of Israel's election at the first. And when, after repeated apostacies, Israel was abandoned, that became the occasion of salvation to the Gentiles (ver. 15). Their slavery in Egypt was a time of merciful visitation for that country. Their seventy years' captivity in Babylon were calculated to enlighten and to bless the people of that empire. And at their conversion they will see with amazement that the very act which completed their guilt — the crucifixion of Christ — has become the means of their own salvation.
4. The timing and distribution of God's judgments and mercies so as to make us feel our entire dependence on Him. Would you know, e.g., why it was that Israel, when brought out of Egypt, was not led straight to Canaan? (Deuteronomy 8:2, 3). Would you know why it was that the coming of Christ was so long delayed; and why the conversion of the Jews did not take place at the commencement of the Christian dispensation? (ver. 32). God waited for the Gentiles till they had proved that the world by wisdom would never know God. And He is now waiting for the Jews till it shall be evident that all ground for self-dependence has utterly perished.
IV. BUT WHAT IF THIS GREAT SYSTEM OF DISCIPLINE SHOULD LEAVE THEM WORSE THAN IT FOUND THEM? Would not their conversion redound, to a degree inconceivable, to the glory of God? The strength of a mechanical power is estimated by the resistance which it overcomes. And the honour which will accrue to the grace of God in the conversion of the Jews is to be estimated partly by the amount and the duration of their previous resistance to that grace.
1. Viewed in this light their conversion will reflect transcendent honour on the power of the grace which effects it. For we are not now speaking of the conversion of a people who had never before enjoyed the light of revelation, but of a people who, in this sense, have never been in darkness. Nor are we speaking of a people who were merely indifferent to Christianity, but of a people who have ever been actively hostile to all spiritual religion. Nor are we speaking of this people as nominally converted merely, as many of the European nations were. To exchange the form of godliness for the power proclaims the presence of a Divine agent; but to worship the very Being on whom the heart had hitherto vented its bitterest execrations, implies a change so great that it might almost excuse unbelief for saying, "If the Lord would open windows in heaven, might this thing be?" But unbelief itself is silenced by the declaration, "I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring."
2. Associated with this display of omnipotent energy there will be the exercise of unlimited grace in forgiveness. When it is remembered that the Jews of that future day will be the descendants and approvers of those who shouted, "Away with Him; crucify Him; His blood be upon us and upon our children!" and that, by their persevering unbelief, generation after generation have virtually crucified the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame, how amazing appears that exercise of mercy which is to cancel such an accumulation of guilt! When they shall see that they owe their forgiveness to that blood which they invoked in guilty imprecations on their own heads, what all-subduing views will they obtain of the prevalence of His intercession, of the unchangeableness and riches of His grace!
3. This change will take place at such a period as shall still further redound to the glory of God. There is a fulness of time for it. As the coming of Christ took place at a crisis when the state of the world demonstrated the necessity for it, and displayed its grace, so doubtless will be His coming in the conversion of the Jews. Probably they will have reached the last stage of guilty unbelief; or they will be sorely pressed by evils from without; or, abandoning all expectation of ever beholding their Messiah, they will have given themselves up to despair; or all these forms of evil will have combined in one. This we know, that the design of the whole gospel constitution is that no flesh should glory in His presence; that the inscription on the topstone of the fabric will be, "To the praise of the glory of His grace."
4. In harmony with the spiritual and Divine character of this event will be the means or manner of its accomplishment. Not that all means will be dispensed with. But these shall be of so humble a character, and their success shall so far exceed all human calculation as to furnish the most glorious exposition of the words, "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord."
V. Another element of the glory which will redound to God will be found in THE NUMBER OF THE CONVERTED. A few here and there will doubtless be renewed, from time to time, prior to that period. But then the change will be so general as to satisfy the large prediction that "all Israel shall be saved." They shall come from the east and from the west, etc., to swear allegiance to the Cross of Christ. And what joy will seize the Gentile Church when it shall be announced, "Then hath God also to the Jews granted repentance unto life"! And if there is joy in heaven among the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth, who can conceive the rapture when it shall be there proclaimed, "All Israel is saved!"
VI. This reminds us of the further accession of glory to God from the conversion of the Jews, resulting from THE EFFECTS OF THE EVENT UPON OTHERS.
1. For what an unsurpassable proof will it furnish of the Divinity of the whole scheme of revelation! As the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost was reserved by God for the crowning proof of the new economy, so the greater effusion of the same Spirit, upon the same people, is reserved to complete the proof of its claims as it draws towards a close.
2. What an unsurpassable proof will that event display of the all-sufficiency of the grace of God! At the opening of the Christian economy in the conversion of Saul Christ showed forth all long-suffering for a pattern, etc. In a similar manner God appears to be reserving the richest display of His saving grace till towards the last.
3. What an impulse, too, will be given to the piety of every part of the Christian Church l (ver. 12). The newly-converted Jews will probably exhibit a measure of self-denying zeal for the glory of God, which the Church had come to consider absolutely impracticable, For "he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them."
4. How eminently will this increase of the Church tend to the union of all its parts! That most ancient of all schisms between Jew and Gentile shall then be healed. Every minor distinction in the Church shall cease. And thus it will be seen that an important step has been gained towards the attainment of that "which God hath purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation,, of the fulness of times" He might gather together in one all things in Christ.
5. And will not — must not all this inconceivably augment the joy of the Church?
(J. Harris, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.