God's Warnings through Moses to His Earthly People
God's first covenant with Israel was very broad in scope, but was conditional in character; that is to say, the performance of its promises by Jehovah was dependant upon certain express conditions, which the Israelites bound themselves to fulfil. Here are the terms of that covenant, as proposed by God and agreed to by "all the people":
"Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed and keep my covenant" - note the condition - "then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation"
Here are three things, which, upon the express conditions of obedience and fidelity on the part of the children of Israel, God promised to make of that people: first, a peculiar treasure to Himself; second, a kingdom of priests; third, a holy nation. There was no promise of earthly territory in that Siniatic covenant.
Thereupon Moses, in his character of mediator of that covenant, called for the elders of the people and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. "And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord" (vv. 7,8). So the terms of the contract were agreed to by both the contracting parties.
Then God spake in their hearing the "Words" they were to keep, the Ten Commandments (Chap. XX); and He also gave to Moses "the judgments" whereby their dealings with one another were to be governed (Chaps. XXI - XXIII). And thereupon "Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments; and all the people answered with one voice and said, All the words which the Lord hath said we will do" (Ex. 24:3).
Accordingly the contract was reduced to writing and was executed in a most solemn manner; it being a blood covenant, which was the most binding sort. For Moses took "the book of the covenant," that is the scroll of parchment on which the terms of the contract were inscribed, and read in the audience of the people, and took the blood and sprinkled it on the people and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words" (24:6-8). Here is where we read of the blood of the old covenant; with which we should compare what is written concerning the "blood of the new covenant" (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 13:20).
Within the space of forty days that covenant was broken by the abominable idolatry of the golden calf and the shameless rites with which the people, led by Aaron, worshipped it (Chap. XXXII); and it should be noted that the terms of that covenant were never again ratified with that people. We shall see presently what were the terms of the substituted covenant that God made with the children of Israel, but we would impress upon the reader, as truth of the highest importance, that the three wondrously glorious promises of the covenant of Exodus XIX - XXIV were reserved for another people, the true Israel. For to them, the apostle Peter writes that God had made them apart from all conditions, "a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people" (1 Pet. 2:9).
When the Israelites made and worshipped the golden calf, God was minded to destroy them and to make of Moses a great nation (Ex. 32:10). Had He done so, He would nevertheless have fulfilled the promises He made "to Abraham and his seed" (Gal. 3:16); for Moses was a direct descendant of Abraham. For the same reason it follows that, in fulfilling those promises to Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:7, 29), God has kept His covenant with Abraham in letter as well as in spirit.
But Moses interceded for the people; and God spared the people, and commanded Moses to lead them to the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob (33:1); and He made with them another covenant (34:10); which covenant, in respect to what was promised thereby, was very inferior to the covenant they had broken; for this substituted covenant (which was not a blood covenant) was restricted to the terms and conditions upon which God would permit them to continue in possession of the land of Canaan.
Those terms and conditions are set forth in detail in the book of Deuteronomy; where, after the recital of them, Moses writes :
"These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which He made with them in Horeb" (Deut. 29:1).
The subsequent history of the Israelites shows that they broke this substituted covenant also; and not in one particular only, but in every particular, thereby forfeiting irretrievably all the stipulated blessings, and incurring all the curses thereof. That covenant having been finally annulled ("done away," 2 Cor. 3:11; Heb. 10:9, etc.), there remains now, of all the covenants ever made by God with a people in this world, none but "the everlasting covenant," or "new covenant," whereof Jesus Christ is the Guarantor ("Surety," Heb. 7:22), who fulfils all the conditions of perfect obedience, even "unto death"; and is also the Mediator (Heb. 9:15; 12:24) ; which covenant was, as we have seen, sealed with His own blood.
Therefore, as regards God's covenants with that earthly people, "Israel after the flesh," the matter stands thus: the conditional promises thereof were all nullified by their breach of covenant; whereas the unconditional promises were all fulfilled to them, to the last detail, through Moses and Joshua; and God, moreover has caused that fact to be plainly recorded, as we shall presently see.
Let us now notice briefly some of the records made by Moses concerning the covenant under which the Israelites entered into possession of the land that God had sworn to their fathers to give them:
A very comprehensive prophecy is found in Numbers 33:55,56, where God plainly says, through Moses, that in case they should fail to drive out the inhabitants of the land, as He had repeatedly commanded them to do, then as a first consequence, those that were permitted to remain should become pricks in their eyes and thorns in their sides; and "Moreover, it shall come to pass that I shall do unto you as I thought to do unto them"; and what He purposed as to those idolatrous nations was their national extermination and their expulsion from that land. This prophecy concerning the earthly Israel has been completely fulfilled.
Deut. 4:1. Here is a summary of the covenant. They were to hearken always to God's statutes and judgments; and, upon that express condition, they were to go in and possess the land. Every blessing mentioned in this book is made to depend upon that same condition. This chapter lays special emphasis upon the Second Commandment (vv. 15-24); for it was because of the breaking of that commandment that the Siniatic covenant had been nullified; and now God proclaims to the whole nation, and makes it a matter of record, what would certainly be the penal consequences to them if they should break this substituted covenant. And not only so, but He confirms His word with a solemn oath, saying, "I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over to Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed" (v. 26). Will God fulfil His word? Shall heaven and earth bear witness that He did not mean what He said?
Careful note should be taken of the promise of mercy (Verses 29,30) which should be fulfilled to them if, when scattered among the heathen (vv. 27,28), any of the should turn to the Lord:
"If from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation and all these things are come upon thee, if thou turn to the Lord thy God and shalt be obedient unto His voice."
This is the promise of the gospel of Christ. It is repeated in Isaiah 55:7 ("the sure mercies of David," Isa. 55:3, Ac. 13:34); and is recalled by Paul in 2 Cor. 3:16. It is the one and only hope for the natural Israelite, as for all mankind. The conditions are, "turn to the Lord" (i.e., repent) and be "obedient to His voice" (obey the gospel by coming in faith to Jesus Christ). Specially is it to be noted that this promise is to the individual, there being no collective promise for the nation as a whole. This is the mercy of the everlasting covenant which God had sworn to their fathers (v. 31). Thus it stands in the Word of God.
But compare this with the now current system of teaching, according to which God will bring the Israelites in a body again after the day of gospel salvation is ended, to Palestine "in unbelief"; and will there convert the entire nation, not by faith, but by the sight of Jesus Christ standing on the Mount of Olives!
The above quoted warning and oath of God that He would, in the event of their lapse into disobedience and idolatry, destroy them from off the land, was never revoked or modified, that I can find; but on the contrary, it was reiterated again and again.
Deut. 6:14,15. "Ye shall not go after other gods of the people which are round about you... lest the anger of the Lord be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth" (or land).
Deut. 7:1, 2, 3. Here they are forbidden to make any covenants with the Canaanites and to intermarry with them (they subsequently did both); the penalty for disobedience being stated thus: "So will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly" (v. 4). For while He "keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments," yet He "repayeth them that hate Him to their face, to destroy them." (vv. 9.10).
Deut. 8:1-18. This chapter is of capital importance. In it Moses charges the children of Israel to remember all God's dealings with them in Egypt and in the wilderness, saying:
"Otherwise it shall be, if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods and serve them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroyed before your face, so shall ye perish, because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the Lord your God."
Here God declares explicitly the completeness of their destruction as a nation. It was to be such as obliterated those nations which the Lord had destroyed before their face. Can it be supposed He did not mean this? And if He meant it, how can anyone maintain, in the face of so clear a statement, the doctrine of a national restoration for Israel?
Furthermore, the form of this tremendously impressive warning, "Ye shall surely perish," is like that given to Adam, "Thou shalt surely die." But in the case of Adam, God's enemy, the father of lies, raised a question concerning the divine utterance; "Yea, hath God said?" With this example and its disastrous consequences in mind, we should be suspicious as to the source of the doctrine which declares, concerning the nation of Israel, that, it shall not perish, but that, on the contrary, it is to be not only saved, but also is to be exalted to the place of supremacy among and over the nations of the world.
Deut. 11:1-9. Moses here recalls God's judgments upon Pharaoh, his land and his army; also His judgments upon Dathan and Abiram; and he admonishes the people of Israel to be warned thereby, and to keep the commandments of the Lord, "that ye may prolong your days in the land." (Over and over Moses declares that God was giving them that land solely because He had promised their fathers He would do so; and that their continued possession of it depended upon their obedience and fidelity).
And again in this same chapter (vv. 16,17), Moses bids them take heed that "ye turn not aside and serve other gods and worship them; and then the Lord's wrath be kindled against you... and ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you."
And at verses 26-28 we read the choice God presented to them: "Behold, a blessing and a curse! A blessing if ye obey... a curse, if ye obey not." Then how about those that obey not the gospel (2 Thess. 1:7-9)?
Then follow a number of chapters (XII-XXVI) containing "the statues and judgments," they were to obey as the condition of their remaining in possession of the land and enjoying God's favor and blessing therein; and in chapter 24:14-26 are twelve several curses which, after they should have entered the land of Canaan, the Levites were to recite, as coming upon those who should sin against the Lord; and to each curse all the people were to respond, "Amen."
Then in the following chapter (XXVIII) is the solemn declaration that, if they would not hearken and obey, "all these curses shall come upon thee... until thou be destroyed" (vv. 15-20). And then, after the recital of a long list of the appalling evils that were to overtake them, Moses says: (vv. 47,48):
"Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee;... and He shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck until He have destroyed thee."
This was fulfilled in the Roman oppression of Israel, iron being the symbol of the Roman empire (Dan. 2:40; 7:7). And then follows (vv. 50-67) that marvelously exact and vividly descriptive prophecy, which God gave through Moses, of the final siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the horrors of which were to be unsurpassed in all history; which prophecy ends with this prediction (vv. 63-67):
"And it shall come to pass that, as the Lord rejoiced over you to do good, and to multiply you; so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth unto the other... And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest," etc.
This is their condition at the present time; and it should be noted that in this same chapter Moses says concerning "all these curses" that "they shall be upon thee, for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed forever" (v. 46).
Deut. 29:1. Here we learn that the covenant under which the Israelites were given possession of the land of Canaan was not, as appears to be commonly supposed at this present time, the covenant of Sinai (and we have already seen that the covenant said not a word about their possession of any earthly territory). For here we read: "These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb." And this is followed by a further warning that the breach of this latter covenant would be punished by an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah; that is, an irrecoverable ruin (v. 23).
Deut. 30:1-10. "And it shall come to pass when all these things come upon thee" - so it was all to happen, and what then? Special heed should be given to this chapter, because here is where mercy is promised them; and here are stated the conditions on which they may obtain it, after they should have been destroyed as a nation, plucked from off their land, and scattered among all the nations of the earth. First there is the promise of a return from captivity if, among the nations wither the Lord should have driven them, they should "return unto the Lord thy God" (v. 2). Then follows a passage (vv. 11-14), which is quoted in part by Paul in Romans 10:6-10, and concerning which he says that "the word," there spoken by Moses, is "the word of faith which we preach, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."
Thus we find that the very last hope of mercy that is held out through Moses to that "disobedient and gainsaying people," to whom God says "I have stretched out my hands all the day long," is the "one hope" of the gospel of Christ.
Verse 15-20 (of Deut. 30) are intensely solemn, and their meaning is so plain it would be like charging God with trifling (as scoffers make light of His warnings concerning hell and eternal torment) to say that this pledge, which God calls heaven and earth to witness, does not mean exactly what it says. Again we have the plain statement, "If thine heart turn away... ye shall surely perish, and shall not prolong your days in the land."
Deut. 31:15-21. God now appears to Moses and plainly tells him that "this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of strangers, and will forsake Me, and break My Covenant. And My anger shall be kindled against them." Therefore He commanded Moses to teach them that remarkable prophetic "song," which witnessed beforehand what they would do, and what was to befall them. "For," says God, "I know their imagination even now, before I have brought them into the land" (21).
To this Moses adds (vv. 27-30) that he knew their rebellion even while he was with them; "And how much more," he asks, "after my death? For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and evil will befall you in the latter days" (and no subsequent recovery is hinted at; though surely, if such a thing were to be, it would appear here).
Deut. XXXII. Here is the "song" which bears so clear a testimony against them. Notice the following points:
"They have corrupted themselves; they are a perverse and crooked generation" (5): "Remember" all that the Lord did for them (7-14); "But" - how they requited Him; and then, what He will do because thereof: "I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end will be" (20). "A fire is kindled in Mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell," etc., (22). Threats of vengeance are found in verses 23-26; and there is the declaration that, were it not that their adversaries would be gratified thereby, God would have made "the rememberance of them to cease from among men" (26). In verses 28-42 we find more of what was "laid up in store" for them, and sealed up among God's "treasures" (of wrath - see Rom. 2:5; Job 14:14; Jer. 2:22). "Their foot shall slide in due time" (34,35). Finally He lifts up His hand to heaven and swears a great oath of vengeance against all enemies (40-42).
Verse 21 is specially significant because of the prophetic reference therein to that new "nation" which was eventually to displace the natural Israel (see Rom. 10:9). And the last verse of all is most important in the light of the interpretation the Holy Spirit has given through the apostle Paul: "Rejoice, O ye nations with His people." This is a promise of the gospel to the Gentiles, to whom Paul was made the special messenger of God (Rom. 15:10). Paul had already shown (11:7) that "His people" was not the nation of Israel in its entirety, but only that part of it ("the remnant according to the election of grace") which He foreknew; with which remnant the saved from among the Gentiles were to be incorporated; thus forming the true Israel of God, represented by the "good olive tree."
Thus it has been foreseen of God, from the beginning of the earthly Israel, that the only hope of the natural Israelite at this stage of human history is to believe in Jesus Christ and be grafted into "their own olive tree." What better thing could be desired for them?
WHAT THE APOSTLES WERE LOOKING FOR.
It is appropriate we should take notice in this connection of the fact that the apostles of Christ, and they who follow their teaching, were (and are) looking for the very same things which were in the vision of the fathers of Israel; for as Peter - writing "to them that have obtained like precious faith with us" (the apostles of Christ) says: "We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Pet. 3:13).
Thus the outlook of the true "Israel of God," that "holy nation" which is, and always was, composed only of those who are "of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all" (Rom. 4:16), was ever the same. And it was, as we should expect, a radically different outlook from that of the degenerate and apostate Jews, who looked for an age (or "dispensation" as it is now called) of earthly glory for the reconstituted Jewish nation; an age in which that nation will occupy the place of dominance over the Gentiles. Manifestly Peter could not have written the above quoted verse if he had held the now current doctrine of a millennium of earthly greatness for the Jewish nation.
Indeed the entire chapter bears strong testimony against that doctrine. The general subject of the chapter is "the promise of His coming" (v. 4); and its special purpose is to warn the Lord's people of what would seem to them a long delay in His second coming and to assure them that the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some would regard it, but that the reason for the seeming delay was because of the long suffering of God, and of His desire that not any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (vv. 3-9).
To all that give due attention to this passage it must surely be evident that what is immediately to follow this day of salvation for all men is "the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" (v. 7), "the day of the Lord" (v. 10), "the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat" (v. 12).
Manifestly, if this present day of salvation were to be followed by a day of glory, peace and prosperity for the earth, a day in which the entire Jewish nation and other nations as well, are to be saved, there would be no long suffering and mercy in prolonging the Saviour's absence; but just the reverse. The apostle's reason for the delay is valid only if the return of the Lord is to usher in the day of judgment, and if it coincides with "the coming of the day of God." The apostle reminds us that the world that existed in the time of Noah, "being overflowed with water, perished"; and goes on to say that, "the heavens and earth which are now... are kept in store" - not for a thousand years of peace and plenty, but - "reserved unto fire" (v. 7).
In verse 10 he warns us, as do other Scriptures (Mat. 24:42; 1 Thess. 5:2; Rev. 16:15), that our Lord's coming will take the world by surprise; and he couples the warning with information which shuts out all possibility of a millennial dispensation to follow His coming; for the apostle says:
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
And then he admonishes us as to what our "conversation" (manner of life) ought to be in view of the immanency of these exterminating judgments; and that we should be "looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat" (v. 12).
Manifestly it is impossible that we should be "looking for," and more so that we should be "hasting unto," the coming of that day, if a millennial age is to intervene.
This passage in Second Peter is referred to again in Chapter XV: Erroneous Teaching Concerning The Satanic Covenant
Dr. Charles W. Rankin, President of the Fundamentalist College in Shanghai, China, calls attention in a recently published booklet to the grievous doctrine of the leading Dispensationalists concerning the Law of God which He gave the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Dr. Rankin cites several notes on Exodus 19:3 in the popular "Reference Bible," referred to above, which state that:
"the law was not imposed until it had been proposed and voluntarily accepted";
Also the note on Gen. 12:-
"The dispensation of Promise ended when Israel rashly accepted the law (Ex. 19:8)."
And Dr. Rankin comments as follows:
"In other words, God did not intend the Mosaic Law to be accepted by the Jews, the Jews 'rashly' accepted it, - did something God did not want them to do. Therefore God did not intend the Mosaic Law to be a part of the Bible. He merely proposed it to the Jews, of course not desiring them to do a rash ting and accept it, and so it was the Jews who put it into the Bible by their 'rash' action. It was not even put into the Bible by human wisdom, as avowed Modernists teach, but was put in by man's will when acting rashly. Therefore having thus by man's 'rash' action of course improperly come into the Bible, the Mosaic Law cannot truly be a part of the Bible. Accordingly, put it out. This is the logic of the teaching of these Premillennialist leaders. And there can be no escape from this logical destruction of the Pentateuch under their teaching. To the extent of striking at the authority of the Mosaic Law, no Modernism could be worse.
"Moreover it is the most aggravated impiety and irreverence to teach that God having proposed to men a covenant, a Law, that they could act 'rashly' in giving heed to His proposition and accepting it.
"God had just led the Jews out of Egypt by the strength of His mighty arm. They were not in a position from any standpoint to make law for themselves, and moreover, the Mosaic Law was not only the necessary State law for the Jewish nation which God Himself was to govern, but it was a revelation from God of Himself, of His moral law, and of His plans for both Jew and Gentile. It contains the prophecies of the coming Messiah, the Ten Commandments, the Levitical System typifying the Atonement of Christ. The Mosaic Code is the foundation for the entire Bible.
"And God led the Jews to Sinai to receive His Law. Under most sublime and awe-inspiring conditions was Moses called up into the mount to receive it for them. And he was commanded to teach it to them (Ex. 24:12). Moreover, it was the duty of the Jews to receive it (Deut. 4:13-14). The Mosaic Law was God's commands, - was His Law. And had the Jews failed willingly to accept it, they would simply have been in rebellion."
Beyond all question, when God offered to the children of Israel the covenant of Sinai, it was with the intention that they should accept it and faithfully observe it; and beyond all question, the law He gave them at the beginning of their history as a nation has been an unspeakable blessing to them, with incidental benefits to other nations.
The truth of the matter concerning which we are inquiring can be ascertained with certainty by a study of God's covenants with the children of Israel (to which partial consideration has been given in the preceding chapter), and of His messages to that people from time to time, given through His servants, the prophets.
We have already seen that, by the covenant of Sinai, God offered them the highest of all blessings, but upon the express condition of obedience; the terms being, "If ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My Covenant" (Ex. 19:5,6). To this they all agreed, saying, "All that the Lord hath spoken, we will do" (v. 8). And this pledge of obedience was twice repeated by them after the ten commandments had been spoken to them (Ex. 24:3 and 7). Nevertheless, that covenant was broken by them within forty days through the idolatry of the golden calf ("Which My covenant they brake," Jer. 31:32).
Nevertheless, in response to Moses' intercession, God continued to acknowledge them as His people, and consented to go with them into the land that had been promised by Him to their fathers. But the covenant of Sinai was annulled, and a substitute covenant was made with them at the end of their wilderness journey, when they were about to enter and occupy the land of Canaan. For we have seen that in the last chapters of Deuteronomy is the record of another covenant, which, like the first, was accompanied by the giving of the law.
The additional (or substituted) covenant was made with the next succeeding generation following that which had broken the covenant of Horeb. It is very different in its terms, particularly in that those great promises - "ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me, ...and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" - are entirely omitted. (Those wonderful promises reappear in connection with God's new covenant people, the true "Israel," the "holy nation," I Pet. 2:9).
The covenant made at the end of the wilderness journey is limited to a recital of the terms and conditions upon which the children of Israel would be permitted to occupy the land of Canaan, which God had promised their fathers that He would give to their children; and as has been already stated, the children of Israel failed completely to keep the conditions of this covenant, even as they had failed to keep those of the other. Moreover, though the Lord God of their fathers sent to them repeatedly by His messengers, the prophets, to warn them, and to recall them to Himself, "because He had compassion upon His people, and on His dwelling place," yet "they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy" (2 Chr. 36:15,16).
It is recorded that both Israel and Judah "kept not the commandments of the Lord their God"; wherefore "the Lord rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until He had cast them out of His sight" (2 Kings 17:18-20).
Nor was this national rebellion and apostasy ever repented of. For Christ declared concerning the generation of His day that they would fill up the measure of their fathers, and would bring upon them the wrath of God to the uttermost (Matt. 23:29-36). And this was repeated by Paul a short time before the final storm of judgment burst upon them (I Th. 2:14-16).
Close attention should be given to the last prophecy of Moses (Deut. 28-32) because of the clear light it throws upon the subject of our present inquiry. It foretells the history of the children of Israel, down to the very end thereof, showing that it would be a history of continued apostasy and rebellion, and of stubborn refusal to hear the voice of Jehovah by His servants the prophets; and it declares with marvelous exactitude and fullness of detail what the end of that nation was to be (Deut. 28:49-68). This has ever been accounted, by all who have given attention to it, one of the greatest wonders of prophecy. For example, Keith on the Prophecies contains an instructive comment upon this passage, from which I quote the following:
"The commonwealth of Israel from its establishment to its dissolution subsisted for more than fifteen hundred years. In delivering their law, Moses assumed more (much more) than the authority of a human legislator; for he asserted that he was invested with a divine commission; and he who founded their government foretold, notwithstanding the intervening of so many centuries, the precise manner of its overthrow.
'While they were yet wanderers in the wilderness, without a city and without a home, Moses threatened them with the destruction of their cities and the desolation of their country. Even while they were viewing for the first time the land of Palestine, and victorious and triumphant, they were about to possess it, he represented the scene of desolation that it would present to their vanquished and enslaved posterity, on their final departure from it. Ere they themselves had entered it as enemies, he describes those enemies by whom their descendants were to be subjugated and dispossessed; though they were to arise from a very distant region, and though they did not appear till after a millenary and a half of years: "The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favor to the young' etc. (quoting Deut. 28:49-52).
"Each particular of this prophecy has met its full completion. The remote situation of the Romans, the rapidity of their march, the very emblem of their arms, their unknown language and warlike appearance, the indiscriminate cruelty they manifested toward old and young, could not have been represented in more descriptive terms. The Roman Generals, Vespasian, Adrian and Julius Severus, removed with parts of their armies from Britain to Palestine, the extreme points of the Roman world."
And this writer proceeds to show, as many other commentators have done, how, point by point, in the minutest detail, the judgments executed by the Romans in the years 66-70 of our era, were prescribed by Moses.
Now the matter of chief interest for our present purposes is that, from this national destruction by the Romans there was to be no recovery. And in this, the prophecy of Moses is in full accord with that of Jesus Christ, recorded in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. For Moses said: "God will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land wither thou goest to possess it. And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from one end of the earth even to the other" (Deut. 28:63,64). This, according to this prophecy, was to be the end of their history as a nation.
Nor is there any promise of God, by any later prophet, of recovery for the earthly nation from this final destruction and dispersion at the hands of the Romans. For an attentive reading of the prophecies concerning "Israel," "Zion," and "Jerusalem," leads to the conclusions that such as are yet to be fulfilled relate to the heavenly people, country, and city, to which respectively those names properly belong; and that all prophecies of recovery intended for "Israel after the flesh" (I Cor. 10:18) were completely fulfilled in and after the return from the Babylonian captivity.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A RIGHT UNDERSTANDING OF THESE PROPHECIES
Some may think it a matter a small consequence whether the prophecies of future blessing and dominion for "Israel" apply to the earthly or to the heavenly people. But not so; for the matter affects the whole subject of salvation and the hope of the gospel. It needs to be settled, and settled according to the Scriptures, in order that the gospel itself may be understood and its work properly accomplished. For so long as another hope, that is to say "another gospel" (upon which, be it noted, the only anathema of the New Testament is laid, Gal. 1:8,9) is presented for a section of the human race (the scattered descendants of Jacob) and that a hope of earthly character, just so long, and to that extent, will the work of the gospel itself be obscured. It was so at the beginning, when the fixed notion of a restoration of the earthly greatness of Israel made the Jewish people the implacable enemies of the gospel, and of the Christ of the gospel, Who is also the Christ of prophecy.
Therefore I am impelled to insist in the strongest way, and to call upon all friends of the gospel to do the like, that there is but one hope, one gospel, one salvation, even as there is but one Saviour for all men. Israel after the flesh was a nation under the law. As such, i.e., as being under the law, promises were given them, all those promises being expressly conditioned upon their obedience to the law; and as such, judgments were denounced upon them as penalties for disobedience, which judgments mounted up to complete national extermination, if their disobedience should be persistent - as it was.
And now the law has been superseded by the gospel, with its "better hope." The economy of the law, with all its shadows - people, land, city, temple, priesthood, sacrifices- has been set aside, and forever. Therefore, it is needful, and is due to the glory of the gospel, and of Him Who died and rose again in order that all men might have the blessings of the gospel, that it should be clearly established and ceaselessly proclaimed that there is one hope, and only one hope, for all mankind. For there is no room in the purposes of God for "the hope of the Gospel" and for another hope for any. Whatever promises there were annexed to the law were all conditional; and all have now been forfeited and annulled. Its curses were what the nation earned for itself; and hence there is, in this dispensation of grace, but one way of escape from the curse of the law, and that is by accepting the mercy which God freely offers to all men through "Jesus Christ of the seed of David raised from the dead" (II Tim. 2:7).
THE KINGDOM FORETOLD BY MOSES
It is a remarkable fact that Moses foretold, in this last prophecy, that the children of Israel would set a king over them; and he also foretold what would be the consequences thereof (Deut. 28:36). That wicked act on their part was to be the culmination of apostasy; for it meant the repudiation of the sovereignty of Jehovah. We have His own word for this; for He said to Samuel, when commanding that prophet to give them their desire, "They have not rejected thee; but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them" (I Sam. 8:7). That kingdom therefore was not "the kingdom of God," preached by John and Christ. So far from its being the kingdom of God, the truth is that its establishment involved the setting aside of the kingdom of God. And it was not "the kingdom of heaven," for what the people demanded was a kingdom of earthly character, "like all the nations." It is strange indeed, therefore, that any Christian expositor should regard the proclamation of Christ and His forerunner as the announcement of the restoration of that kingdom, born of apostasy and rebellion; and the more so after God had plainly spoken concerning it, saying, "I gave thee a king in Mine anger, and took him away in My wrath" (Hos. 13:11).
Moreover, this ending of that odious kingdom is precisely what Moses had foretold long before it came into existence. For his words were, "The Lord shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known" (v. 36). That, of course, was the Babylonian captivity. The kingdom ended then, but not the nation. And in agreement with this historical fact, the prophecy of Moses goes on to speak of the subsequent experience of the nation, as an experience of continued servitude to, and oppression by, other nations. It shows too that the post-captivity period was to be an era in which they should have, not peace and plenty in their land, but dearth, distress, and various other miseries and afflictions (vv. 37-48). The fact that Moses speaks of the continued existence of the nation after the Babylonian captivity affords strong reason for the belief that his prophecy gives the history of the nation down to its very end. From this alone we have warrant for the conclusion that from the national destruction wrought by the Romans there was to be no recovery.
That, of course, was not the view of the Jewish teachers, who, "because they knew not the voices of the prophets" (Ac. 13:27), and because their thoughts and desires were carnal, interpreted the promises as pertaining to a kingdom of the very same sort as their forefathers had demanded of Samuel - one "like all the nations."
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