Some time ago in my Sojourners class I spoke on “The Greatest Reason That the Bible is True” from Deut. 29-30, which deals with the promises of punishment for Israel’s disobedience (fulfilled) and the promises of blessing for them (beginning to be fulfilled in their return to the Land). One of the greatest evidences that the promises are true is that God has preserved the Jewish people through their trials. Here are some further thoughts on that subject—in three parts.
A visiting preacher opened his message with the following provocative statement, “Today I want to tell you how to destroy the Jewish people,” which was the title of the sermon in the Church Bulletin: “How to Destroy the Jewish People.” That rather inflammatory title had also appeared in the local newspaper that week as part of an advertisement for the special meetings the church was conducting with their guest. In a short time, the announced sermon title had resulted in no small commotion in the small town. So significant was the brouhaha that the local rabbi had taken notice and was actually sitting in a pew that morning! Needless to say, the atmosphere in the 11:00 a.m. service at was more than a little charged with emotional electricity.
The preacher then continued his opening remarks with the announcement of his text for the sermon. Has asked his hearers to listen to the words of Jer. 31:31-33. “Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Nothing thus far was very inflammatory. The preacher, however, continued on reading the next three verses—verses, he said, that were often not included when the passage was read or quoted. “Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus says the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD” (Jer. 31:35-37).
The preacher then said that these verses emphasized the everlasting nature of the covenant with Israel. In Jeremiah’s language, the perpetuity of Israel was linked to the perpetuity of the physical ordinances of the sun, moon, stars and earth. If those ordinances disappeared, then Israel would disappear. As long as they will remain, Israel will remain.
The preacher then made his point. “So, if you want to know how to destroy the Jewish people, I will tell you how. First, you must be able to pluck the sun, moons and stars out of their celestial positions and cause them to disappear forever. Second,you must measure the distance from one end of the heavens to the other (something modern scientists don’t claim to be able to do). Third, burrow into the earth to its very core and measure the distance you have bored. And if you have been able to accomplish these three impossible tasks, then you will be able to eliminate permanently the children of Israel from their long existence on planet earth.”
Not only was a collective sigh of relief heard from many congregants, the effect of his point was felt by all, even by the rabbi! The key truth, which he continued to develop, was obvious to all that Sunday morning: It is impossible to destroy the Jewish people.
When one begins to recognize the tragic history of Jacob’s children over the last 2000 years, that simple affirmation stands out boldly amidst their sufferings, exiles and attempted annihilations. Deut. 28 describes their future sufferings in these anguished words: “And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you 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 you go to possess it. And the LORD shall scatter you among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; And among these nations you will find no ease, neither shall the sole of your foot have rest: but the LORD shall give you there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind” (Deut. 28:63-66).
Soon…A brief description of the fulfillment of these prophecies in history. Stay tuned! This really gets interesting.