God Has a Covenant With Israel to be Fulfilled
31. Israel is the chosen nation (Matt. 24.22,24,31), the first nation that God revealed Himself to, which has a covenant with God to be fulfilled to become the
center of all nations.
"Who has ever seen or heard of anything as strange as this? Has a nation ever
been born in a single day? Has a country ever come forth in a mere moment? But
by the time Jerusalem's* birth pains begin, the baby will be born; the nation
will come forth" (Is. 66.8). This occurred in 1948. "And shall put my spirit in
you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye
know that I the LORD have spoken [it], and performed [it], saith the LORD" (Ez.
37.14; read vv.1-14). "For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather
you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land" (Ez. 36.24).
This Land Belongs to Israel
Do you believe Israel-the elect (Matt. 24.22,24,31)-is the chosen nation (the
first nation that God revealed Himself to) in which it has a covenant with God
that awaits fulfillment (to be the
center of all
nations to the Euphrates River-Gen. 15.18), and the new covenant has been
given to the Church-the elect (Rom. 8.33, 2 Tim. 2.10, 1 Pet. 1.2)-beforehand?
"Whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites, Amalekites, and eastern
peoples came and attacked them. They encamped against them and destroyed the
produce of the land, even as far as Gaza. They left nothing for Israel to eat,
as well as no sheep, ox or donkey. For the Midiantes came with their cattle and
their tents like a great swarm of locusts. They and their camels were without
number, and they entered the land to waste it" (Judges 6.3-5). "I will drive
them out little by little ahead of you until you have become numerous and take
possession of the land. I will set your borders from the Red Sea [Gulf of
Aqaba], and from the wilderness to the Mediterranean Sea [the Sea of the
Philistines], and from the wilderness to the Euphrates River. I will place the
inhabitants of the land under your control, and you will drive them out ahead of
you. You must not make a covenant with them or their gods. They must not remain
in your land, or elese they will make you sin against Me. If you worship their
gods it will be a snare for you" (Ex. 23.30-33).
"He [Jacob] dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it
reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it!
The LORD stood above it and said, 'I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father
and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are sleeping on I will give to you
and your descendants....I will bring you back to this land'....Jacob awoke from
his sleep and said, 'Surely the LORD is in this place....This is none other than
the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven'" (Gen. 28.12-22). Jacob said
to Joseph, "When I rest with my fathers, carry me...and bury me where they are
buried" (Gen. 47.30), for "God Almighty appeared unto me...in the land of
Canaan, and blessed me, and said unto me, 'I will give this land to your
descendants after you for an everlasting possession'" (Gen. 48.3,4; see Ex.
6.8). "He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the
Israelites, and He took notice" (Ex. 2.24,25). "I have come down to rescue them
from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from the land to a good and
spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey-the territory of the
Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites" (Ex. 3.8,17;
24.23,28; Deut. 20.17; Gen. 15.19-21, Deut. 7.1). "The law, which came 430 years
later, does not revoke a covenant that was previously ratified with God, so as
to cancel the promise" (Gal. 3.17) either to Israel, or to the seed of Abraham,
referring to Christ (v.16). "LORD, You have prepared the place for Your
dwelling" (Ex. 15.17) in Israel for "the people whom You purchased" (v.16).
Israel was "few in number; if they unite against me and attack me, I and my
household will be destroyed" (Gen. 34.30) before going to Egypt, but "Jacob said
to his family and all who were with him, 'Get rid of the foreign gods that are
among you. Purify yourselves..." (Gen. 35.2). Abraham was small in number when
"he assembled his 318 trained men born in his household" (Gen. 14.14). "In the
fourth generation they [Israel] will return here, for the iniquity of the
Amorites has not yet reached its full measure" (Gen. 15.16).
The Ethical Conquest of Canaan
The prevailing prejudice against Scripture is that the Old Testament portrays a
violent God of a violent people and is filled with narratives recounting
horrendous events with disreputable people playing major roles. Is the Old
Testament ethical? Here are some reasons why it is.
It was ethical enough for Jesus. Jesus accepted the truth and the ethical
validity of the OT ("the Scriptures") in His own life, mission and teaching. He
noted "you have heard it was said . . . but I tell you" (see Matt 6-7) sayings
don't contradict or criticize the OT but either deepen its demands or correct
distorted popular inferences "Love your neighbor" meant "Hate your enemy" to
many in Jesus' day, even though the OT never says such things. Jesus reminded
His hearers that the same chapter (Lev. 19) also says, "Love the alien as
yourself," extending this to include "Love your enemy." Jesus thus affirmed and
strengthened the OT ethic.
Narratives describe what happened, not what was necessarily approved. We
assume wrongly that if a story is in Scripture it must be "what God wanted." But
biblical narrators dealt with the real world and described it as it was, with
all its corrupt and fallen ambiguity. We shouldn't mistaken realism for ethical
approval. Old Testament stories often challenge us to wonder at God's amazing
grace and patience in continually working out His purpose through such morally
compromised people and to be discerning in evaluating their conduct according to
standards the OT itself provides.
The conquest of Canaan must be understood for what it was. This event,
rightly, is troubling to sensitive readers. We cannot ignore its horror, but
some perspectives can help us evaluate it ethically.
1. It was a limited event. The conquest narratives describe one particular
period of Israel's long history. Many of the other wars that occur in the OT
narrative had no divine sanction, and some were clearly condemned as the actions
of proud, greedy kings or military leaders.
2. We must allow for the exaggerated language of warfare. Israel, like other
ancient Near East nations whose documents we possess, had rhetoric of war that
often exceeded reality.
3. It was an act of God's justice and punishment on a morally degraded society.
The conquest shouldn't be portrayed as random genocide or ethnic cleansing. The
wickedness of Canaanite society was anticipated (Gen. 15.16) and described in
moral and social terms. "Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in
all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you" (Lev. 18.24; see
20.23; Deut. 9.5, 12.29-31). This interpretation is accepted in the NT (e.g.,
Heb. 11.31 speaks of the Canaanites as "those who disobeyed," implying awareness
of choosing to persist in sin-as the Bible affirms of all human beings). There
is a huge moral difference between violence that's arbitrary and violence
inflicted with the moral framework of punishment (this is true in human society
as much as in divine perspective). It doesn't make it "nice," but it changes the
ethical valuation significantly.
4. God threatened to do the same to Israel-and He did. In the conquest God used
Israel as the agent of punishment on the Canaanites. God warned Israel that if
they behaved like the Canaanites, He would treat them as His enemy the same way
and inflict the same punishment on them using other nations (Lev. 26.17; Deut.
28.25-68). In the course of Israel's long history in OT times, God repeatedly
did so, demonstrating His moral consistency in international justice. It wasn't
a matter of favoritism. If anything, Israel's status as God's chosen people, the
OT argues, exposed them more to God's judgment and historical punishment than
the Canaanites who experienced the conquest. Those choosing to live as God's
enemies eventually face God's judgment.
5. The conquest anticipated the final judgment. Like the stories of Sodom and
Gomorrah and the flood, the story of Canaan's conquest stands in Scripture as a
prototypical narrative, or one that foreshadows what is to come. Scripture
affirms that ultimately, in the final judgment, the wicked will face the awful
reality of God's wrath through exclusion, punishment, and destruction. Then
God's ethical justice will finally be vindicated. But at certain points in
history, such as during the conquest period, God demonstrates the power of His
judgment. Rahab's story, set in the midst of the conquest narrative, also
demonstrates the power of repentance, faith, and God's willingness to spare His
enemies when they choose to identify with God's people. Rahab thus enters the NT
hall of fame-and faith (Heb. 11.31; James 2.25).
An eye for an eye is remarkably humane. Unfortunately this phrase sums up
for many what OT law and ethics is all about. Even then they misunderstood this
expression-almost certainly metaphorical, not literal, wasn't a license for
unlimited vengeance but precisely the opposite: it established the fundamental
legal principle of proportionality; that is, punishment mustn't exceed the
gravity of the offense. The rest of the OT law, when compared to the law codes
from contemporary societies (e.g. Babylonian, Assyrian, Hittite), shows a
remarkable classic trio of "the widow, the orphan, and the alien"). Israel's
laws operated with ethical priorities of human life above material property and
human needs over legal rights. Not surprisingly, then, Jesus (who clearly
endorsed the same priorities) could affirm that He had no intention of
abolishing the Law and Prophets but rather fulfilled them.
The Law Has a Higher Conscience
Does the Bible teach that people should retaliate, or that they should "turn the
other cheek" (Matt. 5.38-39; Luke 6.27-29)? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus
contrasted a popular interpretation of the law of Moses with His own teachings.
In doing this He was not saying that the OT was wrong, only that his
adversaries' way of applying it to situations was wrong; by emphasizing the
letter of law they had missed its true intent. The "eye for an eye, tooth for a
tooth" passage (Ex. 21.24) did not require people to pay someone back for a
wrong done to them. Its purpose was to establish limits for retaliation. The
most one could do in response to knocking out a tooth was to knock out the other
person's tooth; a person could not be killed for injuring someone's eye. As
Jesus pointed out, a person who was wronged by another could choose not to
retaliate for what had been done to him. Often such a response would be the best
way to deal with the problem. In every case, it should be the first option
"Do not commit murder" (Ex. 20.13). Should we never kill people, or simply not
commit murder? According to the Bible, death was not part of God's original plan
for humanity, but became part of the human experience as a result of humanity's
sin (Gen. 2.17, 3.19; Rom. 5.12; Heb. 9.27). All human beings are made in God's
image (Gen. 1.26-27) and therefore all human life is sacred and to be treated
with special respect. At the same time, the law of Moses sanctions taking of
human life as a penalty for certain serious crimes committed against persons or
God (Gen. 9.6; Ex. 21.12-17; 31.14-15; 35.2; Lev. 20.2,9-16,27; 24.16-17,21;
27.29; Num. 35.33; Deut. 13.5-9; 21.21; 22.21). The NT implicitly affirms the
right of governmental authorities to impose the death penalty (Rom. 13.4). The
Bible's prescription of the death penalty in certain circumstances is aimed at
preventing greater evils from occurring, and thus preserves the principle of
sacredness of human life. Murder, the unauthorized taking of human life, is
clearly what this command prohibits.
"Stay away from false accusation. Do not kill the innocent and the just, because
I will not justify the guilty" (Ex. 23.7). If the Israelites were not to kill
the innocent, why were they ordered to kill Canaanite children (see Deut 7.1-2;
20.16-17)? This verse is part of a larger section that provides guidance to
judges when trying cases in Israel: in courts of law the innocent were not to be
punished. But the elimination of entire cultural groups as punishment for
long-term institutionalized sin was not considered a legal matter. It was an
issue of divine judgment following centuries of unacceptable conduct. God
ordered the Israelites to eliminate cultures that had institutionalized
despicable sin. Canaanite cultures were steeped in a religion that was
polytheistic, idolatrous, and highly immoral. As part of their religious
corruption, those cultures permitted human sacrifices and practiced cultic
prostitution (worship of their "gods" involved intercourse with women attached
to their temples). All of this cultural perversity was offensive to God and was
to be brought to a complete end when the iniquity of the inhabitants of Canaan
was complete (Gen. 15.16).
SUMMARY: "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" (Ex.
19.6). This simply means God will usher in the Messiah through Israel, for God
needs a holy nation to enter in through. It does not mean Israel is going to
rule the world or even receive the reward of reigning with Christ during the
1000 years; though it does mean the promise is for Israel to be the center of
all nations from which Christ will reign in Jerusalem in the Temple. The kings
and priests in Rev. 20.4,6 are overcomer believers from all dispensations.