A Peculiar People I: The Nation Israel
by Shawn Brasseaux – firstname.lastname@example.org
[8 January 2012]
The opening verse of the Bible reads, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 KJV). According to Colossians 1:16,17, God the Son (Jesus Christ) also created governments in both realms: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” In addition, God created beings to assume those governmental positions—He placed angels in heaven and He placed mankind on earth.
When God placed Adam on earth, His goal for mankind was (as He told Adam): “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Genesis 2:15 KJV says, “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” Adam was to prepare earth, to make it ready, so that God could come down and dwell with mankind on earth. That was before sin entered.
An angelic-like creature, Lucifer, rebelled against God, and polluted the heaven (Isaiah 14:11-15; Ezekiel 28:11-19). A number of angels followed Lucifer (now called Satan) in that rebellion. Satan then came to earth, where God had just placed mankind. Unfortunately, Satan enticed mankind to sin, and Adam willfully disobeyed God by eating of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16,17; Genesis 3:1-21).
Now that sin was present, the governments of the heaven and the earth were polluted. In response, God promised to send “the seed of the woman,” a man who would undo the damage that Adam had inflicted (Genesis 3:15).
The Bible is the record of the struggle between God (the Creator) and Satan (the creature who wants to usurp his Creator’s authority), the testimony of God’s plan to restore the governments of the heaven and the earth to Himself. Thus begins our two-part Bible study.
THE NATION ISRAEL
God’s original plan for mankind was for it to rule earth for His glory. However, for the first 2,000 years of human history, mankind only brought God heartache and frustration. Eventually, in Noah’s day, God poured out His wrath on that wicked world in the form a global flood (Genesis 6-8). Even after the Great Deluge, mankind still refused to cooperate with God, reached the pinnacle of its rebellion when the people of the earth assembled around the Tower of Babel in pagan religious worship (Genesis 11:1-9).
So, God would take one man, a Syrian named Abram, and use him in order to accomplish what Adam had failed to do two millennia earlier.
After choosing Abram in Genesis chapter 12, God allowed the rest of mankind (henceforth known as “Gentiles”) to slip further into pagan idolatry and spiritual ignorance. For the 20 centuries previous to Abram, mankind wanted nothing to do with God, so once He chose Abram, He was fair in blinding the Gentiles.
We read, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened… wherefore God also gave them up… for this cause God gave them up…God gave them over…” (Romans 1:19-32 KJV). “[God] who in time past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14:16 KJV). “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30 KJV).
Here is the Bible’s record of when God selected Abram (Genesis 12:1-3 KJV):
“1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
Notice that God will make a nation of people using Abraham’s bloodline (this is the Jewish race). Now, the “seed of the woman” promised in Genesis 3:15 has become “the seed of Abraham,” which will ultimately be Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). The Bible says in Ephesians chapter 2 KJV:
“11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”
This was the lot of the Gentiles while God dealt with Israel.
From Abraham to Christ’s earthly ministry— the 2,000-year period that we call the “Old Testament”—God deals almost exclusively with Abraham’s descendents (Jews). Beginning with Abraham, God made a distinction between Jew and Gentile by setting up “the middle wall of partition” (Ephesians 2:14). God will deal with mankind on the basis of physical circumcision (Jews) and physical uncircumcision (Gentiles). As quoted above, the Bible calls this time period “time past.” Romans 9:4,5 KJV describe Israel’s relationship with God in time past:
“4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.”
Abraham begat a son Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob sired 12 men, who became the 12 tribes of Israel (Acts 7:8). From the time of Abraham to Jesus Christ, God gave to Israel only various covenants—the Gentiles were “strangers from the covenants” (Ephesians 2:12). Two of these covenants were the Old/Mosaic Covenant (the Law, including the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20:1-17, but also various other precepts and instructions) and the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Israel was unique in that God only made these promises to her, not to the Gentiles.
During the lifetime of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, the Jewish race, due to famine, had migrated from Canaan (present-day Israel) to Egypt. Eventually, the Jews became enslaved to the Egyptians. After Israel spent centuries in Egyptian bondage, which was God’s punishment for their rebelliousness, He delivered them…. but not until after He had judged Egypt for Pharaoh’s sin.
While the Egyptians suffered the plagues of the wrath of God, as found in Exodus chapters 7-12, not one Jew dwelling in Egypt perished. As Egypt endured darkness for three days, Israel had continuous light (Exodus 10:23). We read that, on the night God destroyed Egypt’s firstborn, “against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” (Exodus 11:7 KJV).
Once God delivered them from Egypt, God told Moses, who then relayed the message to Israel (Exodus 19:4-6 KJV):
“4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.”
Deuteronomy 14:2 says about Israel: “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (cf. Deuteronomy 26:18). “For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel his peculiar treasure” (Psalm 135:4).
Indeed, compared to the heathen Gentiles (the world), Israel was “peculiar” (strange). The Jews ate different foods (Deuteronomy 14:3-21), they had different religious practices (Leviticus 16), and they acted differently (Leviticus chapter 15; Leviticus chapter 19; et al.). Signs, miracles, and wonders followed them wherever they went. God dwelt with Israel in the form a pillar of fire and a cloud. Gentiles never enjoyed these privileges that the Jews had (and took for granted).
Romans 2:17-20 KJV affirms Israel’s elevated status in “time past:”
“17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,
18 And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;
19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,
20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.”
While God dealt with Israel, in time past, the Gentiles (non-Jews) had no knowledge of the one true God. They did not know God’s will. They were blind fools who worshipped pagan idols of wood and stone. Galatians 4:8 reads: “Howbeit then, when ye [Gentiles] knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.”
As we read earlier in Romans 9:4,5, Israel had the Law of Moses, the holy commandments of God. They had the priesthood, the covenants, the blessings, the salvation, the wisdom, and the protection of JEHOVAH. The Gentiles had none of that. How the Gentiles marveled at Israel. This people sojourned from Egypt to Canaan, defeating nation after nation. Rahab, a pagan Gentile who dwelt in Jericho, best described the attitude of the Gentiles toward the Jews. Notice Joshua 2:9-11:
“9 And she [Rahab] said unto the men [two Jewish spies], I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.
10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.
11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.”
Gentiles feared Israel, and rightly so. Her God was living and powerful, while their dumb idols were “nothing.” Psalm 115:4-8 explains: “Their [the heathens’/Gentiles’] idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: they have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat” (cf. Deuteronomy 4:28; Psalm 135:15-18; Isaiah 37:19; Isaiah 44:9,10; Jeremiah 10:5).
The Jews, although sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were sinful because they were also sons of Adam. Israel disliked her chosen status. Israel came to hate her privileged position. She rebelled against God, and wanted to be like everyone else. The Jews deliberately strayed from JEHOVAH’s commands and precepts. Gentiles mocked God because of the Jews’ wicked lifestyle (Romans 2:23,24). She broke God’s covenants, committing spiritual fornication by worshipping the Gentiles’ gods (documented especially in the books of Hosea and Judges).
Israel rejected God’s rule over them and told God’s prophet Samuel: “Now make us a king to judge us like all nations” (1 Samuel 8:5). Israel wanted to be like everyone else—that is, “we do not want God any more than anyone else wants Him!”
One of the covenants God made with Israel was the Davidic Covenant, given to Jewish King David about 1000 B.C. God promised that a King of David’s lineage would rule Israel (and planet earth) forever and ever. Thus, Israel is God’s earthly (kingdom) people. When this King (Jesus Christ) appeared in Israel, the Jews mostly rejected Him. The Jews were now “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6; Matthew 15:24). They were just as anti-God as the pagan Gentiles were! Sadly, the Jews sided with the pagan Romans, demanding that Rome crucify their Messiah Jesus!
Today, in this the Dispensation of Grace, Israel has lost her privileged position of time past. Romans chapter 11 KJV reads:
“25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
The day is coming, after our Dispensation of Grace is finished, when God will restore Israel. Then, she will finally become “the kingdom of priests” spoken of in Exodus 19:5,6 (cf. 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6). For now, Israel is “cast away,” “fallen,” and “spiritually blinded” (Romans 11:11,12,15,25)… and as we will learn next week, that is good news for us!
A Peculiar People II: The Church the Body of Christ
by Shawn Brasseaux – email@example.com
[15 January 2012]
Last week, in part I, we discussed that not only did God the Son Jesus Christ create the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1), but He also created governments within those realms (Colossians 1:16,17). When God placed angelic creatures in the heaven, they were to rule this realm for God’s glory. Likewise, when God placed mankind on the earth, mankind was to rule that realm for God’s glory (Genesis 1:28).
Alas, we understand that sin has polluted both the heaven and the earth. Lucifer/Satan has caused rebellion against God in the heaven, and mankind (Adam) has allowed Satan’s rebellion against God to pollute the earth. Thus, Satan “is the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The Bible documents God’s war strategy to bring under subjection in Christ the governments of the heaven and the earth (Ephesians 1:9,10).
Also, we discussed last week that God created the nation Israel to be His peculiar people in the earth. Israel was to accomplish what Adam failed to do—see to it that God’s will was performed in the earth for His glory. From Abraham (Genesis chapter 12) to early Acts, God dealt with mankind on the basis of physical circumcision (Jew) and physical uncircumcision (Gentile). During this “time past” period, God formed the nation Israel and allowed the Gentiles to continue in their spiritual ignorance (Ephesians 2:11,12). God determined to eventually use Israel to send salvation and blessing to those Gentiles.
God promised a series of covenants to Israel. One covenant was the Mosaic Law (Old Covenant), God’s civil, religious, and moral laws that governed Israel’s daily living (and thus, making them visibly different from the pagan Gentiles around them). Another covenant was the Davidic Covenant, a promise that God would establish an earthly kingdom with Israel (2 Samuel 7:12-16)—the same earthly kingdom He had intended to establish when He first placed Adam here (Matthew 25:34; cf. Genesis 1:28). In that kingdom, God would use the Jews to send His blessings and salvation to the Gentiles (the rest of the world). Indeed, Israel was God’s peculiar people in the earth.
Satan understood that God was using Israel to accomplish His will in the earth, and that He would eventually use Israel to establish an earthly kingdom. Thus, Satan focused on sending false teachers and prophets to deceive Israel, to draw them away from God’s doctrine and will (2 Peter 2:1-3; cf. Deuteronomy 13:1-18; Jeremiah 6:13; Jeremiah 23:11,16-22; et al.). Finally, when Israel’s King, Jesus Christ, came, Satan increased his attack. The devil used Israel’s apostate religious leaders to persuade Israel to kill their King, Jesus! As we know, they crucified Jesus Christ. Satan figured that since Israel’s King was dead, God’s earthly kingdom would never come to pass.
Jesus Christ resurrected, physically, visibly, literally, but Israel still refused Him and He ascended to His Father’s right hand as a rejected royal exile. Throughout the early Acts period, the lost nation Israel persecuted His apostles. How would the Gentiles be saved now?
The Jews were hindering God’s earthly kingdom, and God’s channel of blessing and salvation to the Gentiles, the nation Israel, was not cooperating with God. Now, God’s wisdom would be manifest.
THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST
Throughout the Old Testament, God’s holy prophets spoke of His plan to restore the earth unto Himself: the formation of His earthly people, the nation Israel, who would enjoy His earthly kingdom and who would send salvation and blessing to the Gentiles (Acts 3:21). But, God was also withholding a secret—His plan to restore the heaven unto Himself. When God planned His strategy for restoring the earth, He also planned His strategy for restoring the heaven: He just kept His plan for the heaven a secret (1 Corinthians 2:6-8) and He did not make that secret known until revealing it to the Apostle Paul (Romans 16:25,26; Ephesians 3:1-11).
God would use the blood of Israel’s rejected Messiah to form a new body of believers (Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:19,20). Satan, thinking he defeated God at Calvary, had participated in his own demise (Colossians 2:15). Ah, the wisdom of God in keeping that secret!
As Israel continued its ungodly attitude in early Acts, God chose the leader of that rebellion, Saul of Tarsus, and saved him. God would send this man, now called the Apostle Paul, to the whole world (Acts 9:15,16; Acts 22:21; Acts 26:17,18; Galatians 1:16; et al.). God would temporarily suspend Israel’s prophetic program. Through the fall of Israel—not through her rise to kingdom glory—God’s salvation would now be proclaimed to the Gentiles. And so, God began a new dispensation with Paul: “the Dispensation of the Grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2). This is the mystery program.
For the past 2,000 years, Israel has been spiritually blinded and fallen. Today, in this dispensation, God is forming a people who will restore His authority in the heaven. This spiritual body is called the Church the Body of Christ, God’s other “peculiar” people. God’s Word says in Titus 2:11-15 KJV:
“11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”
Those of us who have trusted exclusively in the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, we are God’s “peculiar people” in this dispensation (just like Israel was God’s “peculiar people” in her dispensation). God has sanctified us members of the Church the Body of Christ. We have been set apart for God’s purposes (this concept of “setting apart”/sanctifying is etymologically related to the word “saints”). Contrariwise, the rest of the world, lost mankind, cannot be used by God because they are “the children of wrath and disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
Just as God wanted Israel to be separated from the evil world system, He wants us, the Church the Body of Christ, to separate from the evil world system too. God is using us Christians to accomplish His will, so that makes us unique. We are Christ’s “ambassadors,” His representatives in this present evil world (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are a “new man” (Ephesians 2:15), a unique species of mankind (whose identity is in Christ, and no longer in Adam [cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17]).
Our Christian life is actually Jesus Christ living His life in and through us (Galatians 2:20). This is why the Bible says our “conversation is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20)—we have lifestyles that reflect that position in Christ. Lost mankind sees the invisible God by watching us, His visible children. The Creator of heaven and earth dwells in us, not in them! The lost world knows nothing about that grace life, and it is our responsibility to tell them all about Jesus Christ and the life that He can live in them too if they would just trust in Him alone as their Saviour!
God tells us that He has created us Christians to have unique lifestyles, manners of living that deviate from the “normal,” godless ways of mankind. Ephesians 5:7-10 KJV explains:
“7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.”
Earlier in that epistle, Paul wrote (Ephesians 4:17-24 KJV):
“17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20 But ye have not so learned Christ;
21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
Moreover, just as God wanted the nation Israel to separate from the world’s religious system, God wants us, the Church Body of Christ, to separate from the world’s religious system too (that includes abandoning the 38,000-plus “Christian” denominations). In 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 KJV, we are exhorted to break away from all religious tradition:
“14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
Amazingly, Paul is quoting the same Old Testament passages that God directed to the nation Israel! (Refer to Exodus 25:8, Exodus 29:45-46, Leviticus 26:12, Isaiah 52:10-11, and Ezekiel 37:27.) Just like God dwelt with Israel in time past, making Israel unique, so God dwells in us, the Church the Body of Christ, making us unique. We are a peculiar people because our God is a peculiar God—the gods of the world religions are worthless and mindless. We “serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). As the psalmist declared: “For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens” (Psalm 96:4,5 KJV).
In time past, when someone wanted to receive God’s salvation, he or she had to go through Israel. Today, in the “but now,” those who want to receive God’s salvation must become members of the Church the Body of Christ by trusting exclusively in finished crosswork of Jesus Christ (His bloodshed for forgiveness of their sins, His death, His burial, and His resurrection for their justification).
Now, in our dispensation, God has done away with the Jew and Gentile statuses. Both believing Jews and Gentiles “are one in Christ,” and are technically neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ (Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:11-18). Thankfully, God turned to us Gentiles through Paul—we would have not received salvation had God not created Paul’s special ministry.
We as members of the Church the Body of Christ are God’s heavenly people, just like Israel is God’s earthly people. When our ministry here on earth is over (the rapture), we will continue our ministry, for all eternity, in the heaven. Ephesians 2:4-7 KJV says:
“4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
In the ages to come, God will use us (the Church the Body of Christ) to accomplish His will in the heaven, just as He will use the nation Israel to accomplish His will in the earth.
* * *
CONCLUSION: THE BIG PICTURE
Our Lord Jesus Christ created two spheres—the heaven and the earth—that need to be governed for His glory (Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:16). Thus, He has two peculiar peoples in His Word—the nation Israel (Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:18; Psalm 135:4; 1 Peter 2:9) and the Church the Body of Christ (Titus 2:14).
From Abraham (Genesis chapter 12) to the early Acts (pre-Acts chapter 9), God formed the nation Israel, His earthly people. Upon the Jews’ rejection of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in early Acts, Israel fell and her kingdom program was momentarily paused. In our Dispensation of Grace, God has temporarily stopped dealing with Israel while He forms a new spiritual body that is separate and distinct from Israel. This new spiritual entity is called the Church the Body of Christ, and it consists of Jews and Gentiles who have trusted alone in Christ. Those of us who have trusted exclusively in the Lord Jesus Christ are members of the Church the Body of Christ.
In the grand scheme of things, the Church the Body of Christ and the nation Israel, in their respective roles, function for God’s glory (whereas the remainder of creation continues to oppose God and follow Satan in his rebellion). This is what makes them both Israel and the Body of Christ “peculiar” peoples. As the rest of the world continues in spiritual darkness, these two agencies serve as God’s “special weapons” to combat Satan’s rebellion in earth and heaven.
Ultimately, God in His brilliance will use both agencies to eternally destroy Satan’s work.
Romans 11:33-36 KJV:
“33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”