© Charles A. Clough 2002
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 5 – The Destiny of the Church
Lesson 209 – Eschatology with a Plan and Purpose;
God’s Discipline/Restoration of Israel
12 Dec 2002
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
If you’ll turn in your notes to Table 8 again we’re going to continue working with that. It’s really necessary that we understand how Israel functions in history; there’s a set of spiritual dynamics that are at stake here because when we look at the New Testament we see the Lord Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, ascension and session and it’s been Israel, Israel, Israel up to this point. Then Israel, because they rejected, nationally rejected the Messiah, you had rejection number one which was the Gospels because the Gospels record the rejection of Jesus Christ by the nation Israel. Then rejection number two happens in the early book of Acts because once again the nation was offered the Kingdom because the King was there in the Gospels and in the book of Acts Peter said that if Israel still would repent and reconsider their decision about who Jesus Christ was, that they could have their Kingdom, the times of refreshing would come. That didn’t happen and as a result of that we have the rise of the Church Age.
We have this new thing called the church, and now we’re studying the end of the Church Age, of how this terminates. But the problem is that we also know from the Old Testament that though Israel nationally was set aside, it’s not a permanent setting aside. So Israel sort of lies dormant during this age as far as God is concerned in His purposes, lies dormant and then we know that Israel once again in the future will pick this up and finish her purpose in history which was to bring in the Kingdom. She will be the center of that Kingdom to come.
All this has to do with the word eschatology; this is the word that we’re studying, this is the subject material. Eschatos means “last,” it’s the Greek word for “last,” so eschatology is … logos, that’s the ending on this word, every time you see a word like this, biology, geology, it’s always a logic, a knowledge of something. If you take the word apart that’s what it means, it means the knowledge of last things. And every dynamic movement in history has had an eschatology. They’ve either been lies and deceit or they have been the truth.
Christianity has had its competitors and one of the eschatologies of the 20th century was communism. Communism had a well-defined eschatology; that’s why they were so fanatical and it was hard to stop communists because they believed very sincerely that they would bring in their version of the kingdom. There are always people trying to bring in a kingdom. Muslims have an eschatology; they believe in conquering the world and bring it under their law of the Quran. So there are other eschatologies out there.
There’s the eschatology of Western secularism that you learn in public schools; that’s a meaningless eschatology, there’s no purpose behind it. You can read Carl Sagan’s book The Cosmos and he just says that time just goes on and it goes on long enough to make good works. Well, that doesn’t answer the question, why should I bother? If the universe is not run by a personal God and it’s just processes, why bother? So eschatology is a very important thing.
Eschatology also has to do with individual destinies, where will we spend eternity? Is there an eternity? All that’s wrapped up in this word eschatology. You can begin to see when we start peeling away the meanings of the word that everyone has some form of an eschatology. Every one of you right now, if we could do a computer readout of what’s on your mind and what you’ve thought through, you have a personal eschatology. You may not consciously sit there and think it all through, but if you observe how you respond to things in life, particularly when you’re challenged, when you’re very heavily challenged, when you’re tempted to be depressed, when you’re tempted to see an obstruction to what you consider to be the purpose in your life, how you respond to that will tell you basically what your eschatology is like. We all have an eschatology.
What we’re trying to do is look at what the Bible says is the proper eschatology. To do that we have to understand the church and its destiny and Israel and its destiny. We’re still on Table 8 because we’re looking at Israel and how Israel functions in time through progress. To review, how do you distinguish Israel from the church? What did we say? That Israel is what that the church isn’t? The church is not a nation. Israel is a nation, it’s a national entity. You can’t conceive of Israel without conceiving of a government and law and political leaders and people; you can’t conceive of Israel without a Temple. This is the dilemma the modern state of Israel has and the orthodox, there are groups of orthodox Jews today that believe very sincerely that they are going to have their Temple back. This is going to be a bombshell because you know how fanatical the Muslims are about Palestine and the West Bank, leave along the Jews building a temple on top of the Temple mount there. If you want to start World War III that’s a great way of doing it.
But the point is that the Jews believe, not all of the, the secular and the atheist Jews don’t, but there are Jews, Messianic type Jews and Jews that are very orthodox, believe very sincerely that someday somehow on that mount in the east part of the modern city of Jerusalem, there is going to be a Temple, period! Because of this they’ve already bread a red heifer that the Bible says is going to have to be sacrificed in that Temple. That’s already been done. The priestly clothing is being worked on right now; some of the furniture of the Tabernacle is being crafted right now. People say what are you crafting this for, you don’t have a Temple yet. Oh we’re going to have one they say. So Israel is not going away, it’s going to be around and it has a destiny.
Last time on Table 8 we pointed out those four Scriptures; each of the four columns on that table refer to an Old Testament Scripture. We went through Leviticus 26 and said there’s the blessings and the cursings and that’s why down at the bottom it’s Leviticus 26:1–13, that’s the blessing passages; then there are the cursing passages and then verses 40-45 where the nations are judged. If you look on the left most column, Israel’s Historical Existence, you’ll see there are four rows. We’re going to go through all these Old Testament passages and I want you to see the pattern recurs. You want to understand this because it will help you understand the Old Testament, it will help you place books; when you read a book in the Old Testament you’ve got to think to yourself, where does this book fit in the grand scheme of things. What I’ve done on Table 8 is I’ve outlined that scheme. That’s the scheme that the prophets look at when they look at the progress of history. If we had a panel discussion tonight with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and some of the prophets and you had questions about the history, they wouldn’t have known the history we know because they don’t live now, but if we had a time machine going backwards they would have in their heads this concept of Israel’s history.
Again, look at those rows on the left column: the origin of the nation, we know when the nation was founded, obviously in Exodus. The second thing is they were pessimistic, they didn’t believe the nation would do what God said it would do so they looked to a decline in the nation. That’s why it’s discipline and exile and these passages speak of Israel’s apostasy from God and because God has elected that nation to a destiny He’s not going to let it go. That’s why you have discipline and exile. If God didn’t care for the nation He wouldn’t discipline and exile it. The reason He’s disciplining and exiling it is the same reason a parent punishes their child, because they’re trying to train them up in the way in which they should go. So the discipline and exile, painful though it is has a bigger purpose. It’s not just a horror time for Israel; it’s to get her in shape for her future historical existence.
The third row on Table 8 deals with judgment of nations. Why judgment of nations? Here’s why. Who were the guys that God historically used to discipline Israel? Other nations, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, those are all those nations that God used to bring discipline upon His nation. Does He leave the disciplining nations, i.e. the Gentiles that are attack Israel, is He going to let them totally destroy Israel and the answer is no because Israel has a destiny, Israel will survive. Israel’s going to survive, how? Because God is going to judge those nations finally. That’s why in the prophets you’ll read about, in Isaiah you’ll see how he prophesies against the nations and this is warning.
We’re going to look at the analog of Leviticus 26, we’re going to go to Deuteronomy 28; this is parallel to the Leviticus 26 passage but it has a little different emphasis, it was written later. It starts out with blessings, just like Leviticus and then halfway through, at verse 15, it switches to cursings. So the analog is clear, God lays out if you obey Me, you’ll be blessed; if you mess around you’re going to be disciplined. Do you remember what some of the areas of blessing and discipline were? One of them, when we talked about the climate, what did we say that corresponds to today? The economy; the economy wasn’t manufacturing then, the economy was agriculture and you couldn’t have a prosperous economy, agriculturally based, without a favorable climate. We know this from the farmers in our state right now that are almost devastated from the drought. If you’re around people who are into farming, you talk about a horrendously risky investment, these guys put their life savings on the line every year and if they have a bad crop it’s like putting your money in one stock and the thing goes down, you’re in trouble real fast. The economy was climate dependent. And God said if you obey Me you’ll have a favorable climate; translation, your crop is going to come in well, you’re going to have good crops, you’re going to be prosperous. So there’s economic blessing and economic cursing.
Then there was another one, public health. God said if you will obey Me, follow My rules, then you will be blessed physically in your health. If you don’t follow My rules and I’m going to give you mental problems, I’m going to give you physical problems, I’m going to give you all kinds of problems because you’re not listening to Me and I’ve got to get your attention. There again public health issues. Besides the economy and public health issues what else did we say were some of the areas of blessing and cursing? Military; prosperity is victory; Douglas MacArthur said there’s no substitute for victory in a way, NO SUBSTITUTE FOR VICTORY! That’s just the way it is and military defeat is a horrible thing to deal with. Those are the cursings and the blessings.
Deuteronomy 28 repeats them so notice how it starts, verse 1, “Now it shall be, if you will diligently obey the LORD your God,” there it is positive, “being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations.  And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you….” Verse 3 says “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country,” so its urban and rural areas, it’s a universal blessing for both those population areas. Notice verse 4, “Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.” When he talks about the increase of your herd, there’s the economic blessing. Every one of the head of cattle is so many bucks.
When I was living in west Texas you go out there and see these feeder lots where they bring the cattle to feed and I was mentioning to one of the ranching type people, why do you guys fill our meat with all these antibiotics. Half the meat you eat that cow has been feeding on antibiotics all the time it’s been in those feeder lots and I said why do you mess around with the meat? The guy said look, every one of those things is $1,500 and in a feeder lot if you get diseased cattle, boom, the whole herd goes down and you’re in trouble, all of a sudden you’re $200,000 in the hole, so I’ve got to protect my investment. So that’s the dilemma and what God says here is that “the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.” That’s business, that’s economy. The Bible has a lot to say about economics. We don’t hear it from the pulpit but it’s all there.
Verse 5, “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.  Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.  The LORD will cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you,” the same theme as Leviticus 26. The blessing is a national type blessing, it’s on a large community that’s identified as a nation in a place. This is different than the church. If you want to see blessings and cursings directed to the church, which we’ll later on see, Revelation 2–3. But if you look at the style of Revelation 2-3 where Jesus talks about this church and that church, this church if you keep on messing around I’m going to take the candlestick out, etc. this kind of thing. He’s not talking about economic blessing there; He’s not talking in this terminology. That’s because this is directed to a nation; that is directed to the church which is a supra national entity. Verse 10, notice verse 10 is clearly directed to one nation, “So all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of you.” People may abound in prosperity, so forth and so on.
Verse 15, here’s the dark side. “But it shall come about, if you will not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.” See the listing of cursings, look at verse 16, “Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country.  Cursed shall be your basked and your kneading bowl.  Cursed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.  Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.  The LORD will send you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me.” And so on and so on; there’s really some nasty stuff in here. It just goes on and on.
Notice, for example, as you go on, in verse 32, “Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people while your eyes shall look on and yearn for them continually; but there shall be nothing you can do.” That’s servitude, that’s what happened in exile, we all know the book of Daniel. Do you know how old Daniel was when he was taken prisoner and marched all the way eastward into the Iraq and Iran area? He was a teenager, a young teenager. A lot of Jewish young people were just taken off and they did that deliberately because what they realized is we’ve got to get those young people; the old people die off in a while and we don’t have to worry about them. It’s the young people we want to get so we’re going to take them prisoner, because if we can take the Jewish young people prisoner we’ve got their culture, we’ve got all the promise of the future, so we want those teenagers, we want to get them. That’s what happened in the exile; the book of Daniel tells about it, Jeremiah prophesies about it, etc.
Verse 33, “A people whom you do not know shall eat up the produce of your ground and all your labors, and you shall never be anything but oppressed and crushed continually.” Economic disaster. Verse 36, “The LORD will bring you and your king whom you shall set over you to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone.” It goes on and on, I think we all get the idea; that’s Deuteronomy 28.
Now we’re going to come to another them in the book of Deuteronomy and as you can tell by the chart, this one introduces the second and third thing, so turn to Deuteronomy 30. This is the hopeful thing and this shows you that all is not bad in the sense that when these disciplinary things would come upon Israel and let me draw a time line here so you can catch that several times this happened. Here’s the nation Israel going along, here’s the time of David, here’s Solomon’s day, and then about 721 BC the northern kingdom goes into exile, so they are knocked out. Then in 586 BC the southern kingdom goes into exile and they’re knocked out. Seventy years later, 516 BC, notice the time difference here, the seventy years, then there is a remnant of Jews that come back into the land and the guys that write about it are Ezra and Nehemiah. They report the history of what’s called the “restoration.”
But it wasn’t a total restoration; it was only a partial restoration because there were many Jews that were left in the world and the Jews that were left in the world became known as the Diaspora. That’s a noun that refers to all the Jews scattered all over the world; they call that the Diaspora. That is the set of Jews that perhaps will be the ones in the Tribulation that are going to be doing a lot of evangelizing, because they know all the languages. The Jews have in place missionaries in every language; the Jewish businessmen are in every country in the world. They know the lingua franca, etc.
This is 516 BC, the return. Time goes on until the crucifixion of Jesus and then exactly forty years after this the Romans come in and they destroy Jerusalem. So again they get knocked out and then there are a few more revolutions here. There is a lot of discipline that goes on and the discipline takes the form of being driven from the real estate of Palestine. That’s characteristic of this cycle and it happens again and again and again to the Jew. What’s interesting is that in our time, for the first time since these dispersions, you have a massive influx, so a considerable percent of the Diaspora are coming back into the land. This is not a fulfillment of a blessing type of prophecy, but clearly if Jesus Christ is going to come back and find Jews living in Israel and a Temple in Israel, which is what He’s going to do, then it doesn’t require a magician to think through, well gee, if Jesus is going to come back and when He comes back the Jews are in the land, then what we are now seeing of the progression of Jews coming out of Russia, the Jews coming out of eastern Europe, some Jews from America coming, Jews from other countries, Jews from North Africa, from Syria, from Egypt, coming together in the land.
Frankly they’re being driven there, because what do you think has been the motivation for the modern Jew in the 20th century to go back to the land? It’s been the wars and World War II and the destruction of the Jewish communities by Poland and Germany. So it’s been Hitler and Nazism that drove them out of Europe. Europeans can be really nasty to Jews. Europeans have a whole mean streak about them, anti-Semitism, it comes out of their amillennialism, both Romanism and Protestants believe in amillennialism. See, here’s where your eschatology affects you. Wherever Jews find a homeland it’s usually because there’s a premillennial element, i.e., people who believe in the future of Israel. That’s not saying that we have a big love affair with the Jewish people, necessarily, it’s just saying that God has a destiny for them.
So here’s the cycle of Israel. We have these times when God is going to discipline and that’s what’s being spoken of. In Deuteronomy 30 here’s the sovereignty of God over the whole thing. If we stopped with Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 we’d just have man’s responsibility, we’d have man’s volition, man’s response, positive or negative, positive or negative. But in Deuteronomy 30 superintending all of that is God’s sovereign plan for history. Verse 1, look carefully at this verse, let’s take this verse apart, observe very carefully the structure here. “So it shall become” future,” “when all of these things have come upon you,” what are all of these things? What have we been talking about in the book of Deuteronomy? It’s the history, the curses and the blessings, all that history. When all these things that are articulated back there in the Old Testament, “all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all the nations where the LORD your God has banished you,” there’s the Diaspora.
Verse 2, “and you return to the LORD our God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons,  then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.” That’s why we say that verse 3 is not being fulfilled with the modern state of Israel because they’re not coming out of positive volition to the Lord; they’re coming because they’re driven there. So the modern state of Israel with a Jewish influx into the land is a setup for the future, but it’s really not the final gathering in faith. So “the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples,” the reason verse 3 is important is… and if you hold the place we’ll give you a preview of coming attractions, turn to Matthew 24.
When you come across a passage like this in the New Testament, here Jesus is prophesying of the future. In Matthew 24 if you let your eyes skim down through the verses you can see this is all prophecy of the future. The question is, what is Jesus talking about here? The church or Israel? It’s a critical question to understand Matthew 24 particularly if you look at verse 31 because in verse 31 it says, when the Son of Man comes back “He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”
A lot of people try to make verse 31 the same thing as Paul talking about the rapture in Thessalonians. What’s wrong with that? Think about it. Has the church even come into existence when Jesus is talking this in Matthew 24? The church hasn’t even come into existence yet. It doesn’t come into existence until Pentecost so He can’t be talking to the church because the church doesn’t exist. What He is talking about is gathering His elect from the four winds; there’s no resurrection in verse 31, this is not resurrection, this is gathering, physical gathering of people that have been scattered back to the land. That’s all Jesus is doing, He’s giving more details about Deuteronomy 30 and those Old Testament passages, the same thing. That’s why it’s so important, why I’m spending so much time in these Old Testament passages, so you kind of get the picture of the way a Jew would think about his destiny.
Back to Deuteronomy 30, in Deuteronomy 30:1–7 we have what God is going to do for the nation. He says, verse 4, “If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back.” How He’s going to do this we don’t know but apparently somehow supernaturally this is going to happen, whether He has angels driving buses or what, but something is going on because Jesus says He will send His angels and they will gather you. There are other passages in the Old Testament that refer to this.
But remember years ago when that Idi Amin nitwit was taking over Uganda, and he made a big mistake; he hijacked an aircraft with Jews aboard, and he landed it at Entebbe, where the hijackers made a deal with him. And they had all these Jews in the airport terminal at Entebbe. Rabin was the premiere of Israel and if you ever see the movie, there are two movies made about the raid on Entebbe, you really ought to get them because they are just a phenomenal story. Here’s little Israel, thousands of mile away and here’s Entebbe down in the heart of Africa and the Jews in Israel said we’re going to get them. They are our people, they are holding them hostage, and we’re going to rescue them. It was an amazing story.
What the Israelis did was they had three or four C-103 transports; they got snipers and they got well-trained shock troops on those planes; they had refuelers, they made a deal with Kenya so the flew all the way down the east side of Africa, crossed Kenya, and they had a plan. They knew Idi Amin because the Jewish engineers built the terminal, so they had all the blueprints of the terminal; they knew what rooms the people were in. So their idea, these C-103s came in at night and they knew that the guards would do obeisance, etc. if they saw Idi Amin, so they got one of the Jewish guys dressed up, black all over his face, like he was Idi Amin. They put a Mercedes Benz on the C-130 just like Idi Amin’s Mercedes Benz. The C-130’s come in, cut their engines and silently land at the end of the runway. All of a sudden out comes this Mercedes Benz with guys that look like Idi Amin and his body guards. So the guys that are guarding the hostages in the terminal come out of the terminal thinking this is Idi Amin coming. Meanwhile, what they don’t see is out of the other C-130s are a bunch of these commandos coming around the back side of the terminal. All of a sudden there’s a big surprise, bang, bang, bang, bang and down go the guards and the hostages are rescued.
I tell you the story because to commemorate that Israel issued a coin and on the coin there is an inscription from the Deuteronomy, “On eagle’s wings I will bring you home.” So that’s how much they value this passage, this is not just spiritual stuff to them. There will come a time when the Jews that are persecuted around the world, they will be saved and they will be saved physically. All this is in physical terms.
Verse 5, “And the LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.” If you look at verse 5 and you are arguing with someone about where the Jews own the land, what land do you think they’re going to be brought back to? What does it say? It defines the real estate boundaries because it says “the LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed,” do we know the boundaries of what their fathers possessed? Absolutely, the Bible gives all the boundaries. So we know that the land belongs, ultimately, to Israel. We don’t know how the Lord is going to work all this out but the land belongs ultimately to the Jews. Why, because they’re better than everybody else? Not at all, because God said so. It’s God’s program.
Verse 6, here are the spiritual things, it’s not just physical, it’s also spiritual because remember we said the blessing won’t come unless there is a regenerate heart. “Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.  And the LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.” So you see that there’s no violation in God’s prophetic program of those blessings and cursings. It is not the case that gee, God feels sorry for all the Jews that are suffering and He brings them back to the land. That’s not so. He will work a work such that they come to Him in obedience.
So there’s a spiritual rebirth along with the physical deliverance. You can’t make these things different. That’s why I keep saying over and over again, that’s the meaning of that phrase when the Lord Jesus rode into Jerusalem and He knew that He would be rejected, and He said you’re not going to see Me again until you say, and He’s talking about plural “you,” plural, you people, the nation Israel, you will not see Me again until you say “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.” In other words, they are going to have to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah and that will happen and is involved here. That’s why in verses 6–7 God is going circumcise their heart; there is a spiritual revival that happens at this point in history.
Verse 9, “Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand,” there’s the blessings, those are the blessings that come out of this, “in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over you fathers.”
That’s Deuteronomy 30; now we go to Deuteronomy 32 and we’re going to spend time on this passage because it has a structure to it that underlies the Old Testament prophets and how they ministered the Word of God. This structure was informally known for centuries by Bible scholars, but in the 29th and 20th century there was a group of Old Testament scholars that did a little work on a thing called “form criticism.” A lot of it is just junk; it’s just a lot of liberal higher criticism and all the rest of it. But out of that discussion biblical scholars began to look carefully at literary form and began to realize that there are passages in the Bible that have a certain form, like, for example, poetry, narrative, that sort of thing. Deuteronomy 32 is one of those chapters that figures very centrally in this awareness of structure, of how something is written.
We call Deuteronomy 32 a lawsuit format. The scholars call it rib, but the “b” is pronounced like it’s a “v”. They call this the rib; reeve is the way it sounds but it’s spelled rib, the rib proceeding; the rib proceeding is this, let me give you the big idea and then we’ll see how it’s illustrated. You can’t have a lawsuit unless you have law. You don’t have a lawsuit unless two parties that are in antagonism are underneath this structure and within that structure you have a lawsuit. In the Old Testament here’s the deal. God made a treaty with the nation, and what’s the treaty? The Sinaitic Covenant, the Mosaic treaty. When the nation violates that treaty God brings lawsuit against them. This was not understood for a long time because liberals would take these Old Testament prophets and turn them into social gospel people; these are the welfare people, etc. They’d say oh, those prophets, we can’t stand any part of the Old Testament, it’s all gook except we do like the prophets because they were champions of social causes. Well, they were, but they were champions of social causes inside of a lawsuit proceeding, meaning the prophets didn’t invent, they were not innovators; they were not social innovators that invented welfare arguments.
The prophets actually were, instead of what we say radicals, they were reactionaries. The prophets went back to the Mosaic treaty attacking the nation for violation of that earlier treaty. It makes sense doesn’t it; the Word of God is being violated so the cursings are going to come. We’ve already seen the blessings and the cursings. What the prophet would do is they were God’s agents to announce discipline upon the nation, but obviously if you have a lawsuit filed against you, you’ve got to know what the person’s problem is. When you have a lawsuit the suit is over something, it’s over some issue. So the Old Testament prophets would define what the issue was. We would say they would bring conviction for sin. That’s the bottom line of this, they would convince the nation that they had violated God’s laws and treaties and therefore they were going to be cursed. Now let’s go in and I’ll show you the structure of this and then we’re going to Old Testament prophets and you’ll see that this chapter, 32, is quoted verbatim by the Old Testament prophets. They knew about this and they consciously imposed this lawsuit format upon the nation.
Deuteronomy 32:1, “Give ear, oh, heavens, and let me speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.  Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as the droplets on the fresh grass and as the showers on the herb.” Clearly this is not narrative, this is a poetic structure. Verse 3, “For I proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God!” It’s Moses speaking this. But in verse 1 we have a little interpretation problem.
Look carefully at verse 1 and notice to whom Moses is speaking. Now because this is poetry it’s easy to kiss this off as just kind of poetic idiom, well, that’s just the flowery language of the poet. Well, Moses could probably have done flowery language, but there’s more seriousness to this than just a poetic metaphor. He’s calling something to witness. He’s saying to the heavens and to the earth, we want you to act as witnesses. Actually probably what he’s talking about is there are angelic observers to this process, and they’re acting as witnesses to the behavior of the nation Israel. Moses defines this, he says, “Give ear, oh, heavens, and let me speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.” So Moses is now acting as a prophet in whom the word of Yahweh comes and he’s announcing this.
Now he gives an amazing … it’s called the Song of Moses, it’s like a national anthem except it’s got … our national anthem has just past history, what happened at Fort McHenry but this is a national anthem that gives the future of the nation as well as the past. He goes on, notice the difference between verse 4 and 5. What do you notice about the difference? In verse 4 who is he talking about? The Lord, “The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.” Verse 5, “They” talking about the people, “They have acted corruptly toward Him, they are not His children, because of their defect; but are a perverse and crooked generation.” So there’s your antagonist in the lawsuit. God was perfectly faithful to His Word and the people were depraved. Verse 6, “Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you.” He’s going back.
Verse 8 is interesting, he’s talking about the origin of the nation here, see the chart on Table 8, I’m just following that right column. Notice verse 8, this tells you something about world history and people groups. It’s a rather phenomenal verse and the critics always like to write it off as oh, this is just poetic license. No it isn’t; this gives you the mathematical structure of world civilization here. Look at this, you won’t find this in a history book; most historians don’t read it and the ones who do just write it off. “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,” he’s speaking of this as something past to his day. When did the Most High give the nations their inheritance?
Let’s look at a time line. Here’s Moses, 1440 BC, thereabouts. We’re looking backwards, backwards, backwards to when the nations were given their inheritance. When were the nations given their inheritance? Have you heard the term “table of nations?” Do you recognize where that’s from? Genesis 10, table of nations, there are seventy nations in that list. They are the nations that came out across the earth when Noah plus his three sons, wife and three daughters-in-law, so we have eight people. Those eight people made lots of babies, and they colonized the world. They colonized the world! We don’t think of that because every time you mention Noah people think of the ark and the flood, which is fine. But what you need to start thinking about when somebody mentions the word Noah to you, you think of him as a colonizer, as a grand motif of a Christopher Columbus. This guy, Noah, and his sons, these are the guys that colonized what we call planet Earth after the great devastation of the Flood. These are the architects of what we call civilization. They went all over the land; they evidently spoke Semitic, we went through Genesis there’s linguistic evidence of Semitic languages [blank spot]
Anybody know the Peninsula that Spain is on? It’s called the Iberian Peninsula, a Semitic root. What is a Semitic root in Spain for? It goes back centuries. In Ireland you have the appearance of Eber, what’s that doing in Ireland? And you have these mysterious roots here and there all over the world, these Hebrew roots. Where does this come from? We believe it came out of the fact that this one family spoke a proto Semitic language related to Hebrew. And they went out and Genesis narrates the destiny of his three sons. These guys had three characteristics wherever they went. A book that will interest you if you’re interested in these things is called Noah’s Three Sons and Arthur Custance is the author of that, he’s dead now, he’s a Canadian, but I understand that there’s a website Custance.org, that book has come back into print. It was printed by Zondervan a decade or two ago. It’s a magnificent work where Custance goes in and he shows you how you can trace which peoples come from those three sons. It’s pretty amazing how he does this, pretty objectively.
Verse 8, “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. That’s the sons of Jacob and how many were there, that went down into Egypt. Seventy. So now we have an interesting confirmation. Verse 8 refers back to the table of nations that has seventy people groups and we have seventy sons of Jacob going down into Egypt, third generation of that family. These seventy subgroups are all mixed up today in world history, but this colonization program apparently was well designed. Let’s remember something here, I know this sounds incredible to some of you who have just learned only one side of history and one view of history, the secular view, but think about who are the guys that had the engineering expertise to build the pyramids. Why is it that the earliest pyramids are better than the later pyramids? How come the guys that were first on the block built better pyramids than the guys that came later? If technology evolves you’d think that as they built more and more pyramids they’d figure out how to do it better. No, they built more and more pyramids they got sloppier. So who had the idea about the pyramids? Where did that come from? These guys weren’t stupid.
I showed you a map, they mapped Antarctica; we know it’s a map of ancient Antarctica before the Ice Age because it’s got the river beds in it and the river beds today are underneath an ice cap. So who was it that mapped the Antarctic continent? It’s a stunning historical point because to map something you need to measure latitude and longitude. Do you know how you measure latitude? Sun angle, knowing the date of the calendar you take the sun angle, find out the angle between the sun and the horizon. At noon at a certain solstice, summer solstice, winter solstice, we still use this, I use it Aberdeen Proving Ground all the time. When the stupid survey equipment doesn’t work I always ridicule them and say I’ll use the same method that the Pharaoh’s used, it’s better than your equipment. This is latitude.
But the other problem is, how do you measure longitude? That’s the problem. If you get on an airplane and you go to Denver, you’re going west. What happens to your time clock when you go from Baltimore to Denver? Denver is two hours behind. Why is that? Because of the apparent motion of the sun. So when you’re going in longitude time changes. The only problem is you need a watch. How do you do that? Somebody, whoever they were, of these suns that mapped the Antarctic continent, and by the way, mapped South America, apparently mapped the continents, they had some ability to measure time and yet today if you look up in a book watches, clocks, somebody will say they had water clocks and they had something else. Maybe they did, and somebody in the 5th invented them, like nobody had a sense of time before 500 or 1000 BC. No-no, these guys had watches, they plated jewelry with citrus acid batteries. They had electricity.
We somehow think that we’re the only people that ever walked the face of the earth that has these things. That’s not true. We haven’t got a clue as to the technologies brought at the beginning of our civilization. Every once in a while you get glimpses of this and then the secular people, because they don’t believe the Bible, they say well that was because visitors from outer space helped the human race at critical times in their past evolution. No matter what data you bring up you’ve always got some smart aleck unbelieving answer to meet the data. But take this data seriously. This actually happened and verse 8 is an historical example of real history.
Verse 9, “For the LORD’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance,” and it goes on and on. Verse 15, here begins the discipline and exile, from verses 15–16. “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked— You are grown fat, thick, and sleek— Then he forsook God who made him, and scorned the Rock of his salvation.  They made Him jealous with strange gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger.” Here we go, there’s the decline. We go all the way down to verse 26, “I said, I will cleave them in pieces, I will make the memory of them to cease from among men.” Watch verses 26–27; they are a poetic revelation of the anger of God to the sin of His people. Look at this, verse 26, God is expressing Himself. He says I would have cut them to pieces, I will remove the memory of them from among men, verse 27, “Had I not feared the provocation by the enemy, lest their adversaries should misjudge, lest they should say, ‘our hand is triumphant, and the LORD has not done all this.’ ” Verse 27 is an example of the glory of God. We use that term flippantly too often in religious circles, oh the glory of God, God be glorified. Well, here’s a case where God is glorified and it’s a great illustration to tighten up how you think about this, to get a handle on this, it’s not just some religious kook-work.
When it’s talking about God glorifying Himself it means that God is concerned with His reputation, that when He undertakes something He wants the credit for doing it and He’s not going to share that credit with anybody else. So here these nations are attacking Israel, and if they beat Israel into a pulp and leave her there, totally destroyed, they’re going to say well, we were so good, we got those Jews. They think they are the ones that are doing it, so God says My glory is involved here, I chose these people and they screwed up and I’m going to discipline them but I’m not going to let them be totally destroyed because My glory is at stake here. It’s not because of the Jews, it’s because of God’s glory, He is the One who promised them.
Verse 28, “For they are a nation lacking in counsel, and there is no understanding in them.” He’s going to talk about how he’s going to get the nations. He goes on, verse 33, “Their wine is the venom of serpents, and the deadly poison of cobras.  Is it not laid up in store with Me, sealed up in My treasuries?  Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in due time their foot will slip; for the day of their calamity is near, and the impending things are hastening upon them. For the LORD will vindicate His people, and will have compassion on His servants; when He sees that their strength is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free.” That’s the ultimate redemption of the nation Israel; it’s not addressed to the church, it’s addressed to Israel. Verse 37, “And He will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they sought refuge?  Who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their libation….’”
Verse 39, “See now that I, I am He, and there is no God besides Me; It is it who put to death and give life. I have wounded, and it is I who heal; and there is no one who can deliver from My hand.  Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, as I live forever.  If I sharpen My flashing sword, and my hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, and I will repay those who hate Me.  I will make My arrows drunk with blood, and My sword shall devour flesh, with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired leaders of the enemy.  Rejoice, O nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people.” There’s a glorious end to history and it is going to be centered upon Israel and what God is going to do with that people.
I told you that this is more than a forecast, it’s the bringing of a lawsuit against the nation for their sin, but yet it’s a lawsuit whose penalties are bounded by God’s sovereign election of the nation of Israel. Now I’m going to take you to two or three Old Testament prophecies and that’s all the time we’ll have for. Turn to Isaiah 1, there’s a well-known prophet. I said, watch for the rib proceedings. This lawsuit is embedded in the thought forms of the Old Testament prophets. Verse 2, who does the prophet Isaiah call upon? Exactly the same one that Moses called upon. See, this wasn’t just poetic idiom back in Deuteronomy 32 because when Isaiah goes to bring lawsuit against the nation, Isaiah 1:2, “Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the LORD speak: Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me.  An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.  Alas, sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly!”
Then in verse 5 Isaiah begins to describe the discipline that’s come upon them, all the way down to verse 23 and he says in verse 16, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.” See the appeal, this is how the prophets worked; they worked to indict the nation for violation of the Sinaitic Covenant and he says in verse 16, because God doesn’t want to destroy the nation, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean… Cease to do evil,  learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless; defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
Verse 18 is that famous verse that we all quote in Christian circles, “Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD, though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” Notice the reasoning together; do you see the context, this is the middle of a lawsuit here, of course they’re reasoning together because this is how you arrive at conviction, not by emotion. Emotion may be there but emotion doesn’t lead you anywhere, it doesn’t help you think through anything, in fact, it impedes it. They’re reasoning together about what’s the problem, what’s going on here.
Verse 24 parallels Deuteronomy 32, look what he says. After he gets through the lawsuit he indicts the people for their sin. What does he say in verse 24? There’s a shift in the text. “Therefore the Lord God of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel declares, ‘Ah, I will be relieved of My adversaries, and avenge Myself of My foes.  I will also turn My hand against you, and will smelt away your dross as with lye, and will remove all your alloy.  Then I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning,’” look at the hope in verse 26, “after that you will be called the city of righteousness, a faithful city.” Zion will be redeemed.
We’ll come back next week and work on some of the other prophets, but what I’m trying to show you here is that there’s a structure in the Old Testament. These prophets weren’t just yelling at people, they were consciously doing something. They were appealing to the witnesses, the heavens and the earth that saw all this sin going on. And then they appealed to the cursing section of the Sinaitic Covenant; if you look at these cursings they all fit Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, nothing new here. Then they would come to the end and they would say but there’s hope because God is going to redeem this nation. God never throws Israel away. You want to watch that because there are Christian theologians by the carload that are saying God’s done with Israel. God is not done with Israel. Do you see any sign that God’s done with Israel here in these texts? Not at all!
Next week we will continue working with some of these prophets out of Deuteronomy 32, we’ll finish up with Israel so we can get into the church.
Someone says back to the same question, can I as a Christian take those passages in some form as a promise … is it just an example for me as a Christian or … we claim some of those promises:
Clough replies: Okay, we didn’t finish that one. That’s a basic question and it’s a quite important one because it concerns the implication of separating Israel and the church. The question is that if you make the separation between Israel and the church as two distinct entities that God deals with, then is it true that two-thirds of the Bible is written to Israel, which has many promises in it, and can’t be used by people in the church. I think the answer to that is that’s really not what the implication is but you just have to be careful how you apply the promises.
Let me give an illustration. You often hear it said by well-meaning people that 2 Chronicles “If my people, who are called by My name, [shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”] That was given to Israel; it wasn’t given to the United States of America. So how then do you apply that truth to our country because first of all, let’s look at our position in the church. I’m anticipating things here because we’re going to have to go ahead and think about the church.
The church is not a nation; the church exists in Iraq and it exists in the United States of America. The church exists in Africa, it exists in China and we’re all united with that church through the Lord Jesus Christ. When the church is persecuted like it’s being done in the Sudan and most Moslem countries, then that’s attacks against us; that’s attacks against the body of Christ wherever the body is. So there’s this supra s-u-p-r-a, supra national entity called the body of Christ that occupies many different lands, many different people groups. So now I as an individual believer I’m living in America. I have in America a privilege that many Christians don’t have that live in other national entities. I’m going to answer the question two ways, I’m going to answer it as far as our citizenship application of the principle as groups within a national entity, and then as far as personally applying it in our personal individual life.
Let me just come at it as what is our function as Christian citizens. We live in the United States of America, not Iraq, not Sudan, not another country but in the United States of America. This country is a nation and it is a distinct nation that has a distinct destiny in history. We don’t have prophets so we don’t know exactly what the destiny is but each of those people groups that are outlined, God has a purpose for various people groups and He has a purpose for America.
What guidance do we have for His purposes for America? Two areas, remember the passage in Acts 17:26 where Paul says He has made of one “all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth … that,” purpose clause, Acts 17:27, “that they may seek after God.” Right there is a purpose in all national groups and national histories of these groups is that the rise and fall of nations has as its purpose to stimulate God-consciousness. Clearly that’s Acts 17, I didn’t write it, there’s no debate, it’s just there. That’s related because if you go back in the Old Testament to Isaiah, to Jeremiah, these prophets while they were administrating a law suit against Israel guess what else they were doing? They were making political commentary on the nations round about. Jonah at Nineveh, you have Amos, you have Micah, in Isaiah there’s whole sections of chapters devoted to individual nations.
And if you look at the study of the Old Testament prophets going after these nations they’re not indicting the nations for violation of the Mosaic Law Code because they didn’t have the Mosaic Law Code. But what the prophets are indicting the national entities is what we would call basic morals, the system under which Abraham would have lived in his time, the moral structures inherited by virtue of the Noahic colonization program, that nations are held responsible to that ethic. They’re not out there lawless. The Sinaitic Covenant is said to be the best law code ever given in history. God says what law is there like the one I’ve given Israel. So that is a model law.
So now here we are American citizens. We’re participants in our nation and we’re participants in a special way in our country that believers in other countries aren’t. We have representative participatory government so we have opportunities in our nation that other Christians never had. The slaves of Rome didn’t have what we’ve got. In the New Testament there aren’t many instructions given to the early church because the early church didn’t have voting rights. They had no vote, they didn’t have privileges. So you have to get what we can do by implication. What do we do? Here’s what I do, here’s how I think it through. I go back to the Old Testament and I look and see what wisdom principles I can find in the Sinaitic Covenant. For example, in the Sinaitic Covenant, I’ve mentioned this before, look at the penal system in ancient Israel.
Here we are, we have more people in jail in this country as a percent of the population than any other country on earth. Do you know how much a prisoner costs the taxpayers, every single prisoner in prison? At least $30,000 to $40,000 per year. And we have more people in prison than any other country on earth. There’s a problem here somewhere. When you see the statistics you say what is going on with us? We’ve got more sinners in this country? No, it’s because our penal system has one solution to every problem and that’s put them in jail.
What does the penal system in the Old Testament do? The penal system in the Old Testament had at least four different tools available, five tools; capital punishment, and of course there are legitimate problems with administering capital punishment, it can be done in such a way that only people with rich attorneys get off, I agree to that. That’s something you try to correct as citizens in this country, but you don’t abolish capital punishment. That is the foundation of government. When was capital punishment given? When God gave government to Noah He gave him the sword. Sorry, people don’t like it, it’s not pleasant to go kill people, but capital punishment is a responsibility of society, given to society. So politically as a Christian in my national entity am I going to be for capital punishment or against it? I’m going to be for it. Am I going to try to strive to make it equitable? Yes, I’m not stupid; we want to be fair about it.
What’s the second tool in the penal system? The second tool in the penal system was corporal punishment, ooh, we don’t want to do that. I’ll tell you something, I’ve worked in prisons for quite a while and we know people who work in prisons. I’ll tell you what; corporal punishment is a lot less abusive than what goes on in the prison system. You stick somebody in a cage like an animal for 25 years, there’s abuse going on and it’s not necessarily physical. So I’m sorry I don’t buy into this business about corporal punishment being abusive. I think what we’re doing to the prisoners sometimes is abusive in the head. You know with a child, yes, we want to protect children against physical punishment in the sense of abuse, but parents can be very mean to kids and hurt them very deeply in their soul by what they say with their mouth. It doesn’t have to be a swat, it can be what you say, a cutting remark wounds the soul. You can do the same thing to people. You take away responsibility and dignity in a caged animal like thing; forget about rehabilitation, it isn’t going to happen.
So there’s capital punishment, there’s corporal punishment, there’s restitution. That means somebody gets off their butt and works and fixes the problem they messed up with and stop having the tax payers have to pay for it, they pay for it. And then if they don’t pay for it, do you know what the Old Testament said if you didn’t do restitution? They were killed, that’s an abominable sin, the violation of Yahweh’s court. So there was a little motivation there to make restitution.
The fourth thing was fines, which we have. Fines were used. Then they had the cities of refuge for manslaughter, defense against [can’t understand word]. There are a lot of insights. I’m just giving you this one area, the penal system, it’s loaded with insights. Was God stupid or does God really know what He’s doing? So I say to myself, knowing some sociologists, people that take these courses, you know I have to choose, I read books on sociology and I read the Word of God that tells me how God Himself inspired the penal system of a national entity and I have to go with how God inspired the penal system of the national entity. I have to believe that He’s wise enough that if we could mimic some of those principles we’d be better off than what we are today. So briefly how do I take the Old Testament? As a citizen participant in a national entity I borrow those principles as wisdom, trying to bring them over to my time in my situation culturally and nationally. So I see the Law in the Old Testament as a vast repository of wisdom.
We could go into economics, we could go into all other areas, we could go into the military, there’s a lot of military wisdom given I the Bible. Set up how a military group, organization should be organized, who should be in it, the motivation for serving in the military, it’s all there, it’s in the Deuteronomic code. Foreign policies, how to conduct a war, doctrine of just war, it’s loaded with all these wisdom principles. But everybody always pooh-poohs it, oh, that’s just the Bible, we don’t listen to that, we’ll listen to our PhD from Harvard who hasn’t read the Bible and doesn’t know what the Ten Commandments are. So the Old Testament has these wisdom principles, that’s one area.
What do I do with the other side of the question, what do I do as an individual Christian looking at the promises? Can I use some of those promises? In this way, who made those promises? God made those promises. Is God the same yesterday, today, and forever? Yes. Does the way He treated His people tell me and give me confidence how He would treat me? Yes. So I can use those promises because they tell me about my God and how He works with people. He worked with Israel this way and knowing His character I can say I trust You to work that way with me, it’s just that I have to recognize I am an individual in a different time in history, in a different place than those people are, and I don’t live under the Mosaic Law Code. But I live under the same God who made that law code and He may have administrated … I mean obviously I don’t have property rights, title in my tribe to a piece of real estate in Palestine so I can’t take any of those promises.
But where God has promised certain blessings for obedience, why can’t we take those? I think we can. God promises that blessing comes from obedience. The problem is we always have to recognize that you have other reasons for suffering, we’re not preaching a prosperity gospel, which people get off on. We’re not doing that but we’re saying generally speaking when you follow the mandates of the Word of God, all other things being equal, you’ll be blessed. I’ll give you an example, a simple example. Years and years ago a Seventh-Day Adventist medical doctor wrote a book called None of these Diseases. It was a fascinating book because as a doctor he had insights into health issues. And he said you know, it’s very interesting, if we would conduct ourselves with some of the hygienic codes that are embedded in the Mosaic Law we’d be a healthier society.
Two examples come to mind. This again is this wisdom idea. One is circumcision; do you know when babies were circumcised in the Bible? The eighth day. When do we circumcise in the hospital? The third day, just as fast as we can and get them out of here and send them home. Do you know when prothrombin, the clotting mechanism in blood peaks in a baby? The eighth day. Is that an accident or did Moses know his blood chemistry and say ooh, I see prothrombin on the eighth day. No, God showed Moses that. Now there’s a wisdom there. He didn’t make it the fifth day or the seventh day or the third day. He made it the eighth day. Why? Well I don’t care, that’s just God being arbitrary. No it isn’t God being arbitrary, He knows about prothrombin, so it’s the eighth day.
Well, S. I. McMillen pointed out something else, remember in history, what was the worst thing that happened in Europe in the Middle Ages; it almost killed half the people? The plague. He said as a medical doctor I’ve studied that plague; do you know how that plague could have been stopped? If they’d gone back to the sanitary law codes of the Mosaic Law. Where were the latrines supposed to be in the camp? Outside! Simple! Where were the latrines in medieval Europe? The street! Duh, and we’ve got diseases, now I wonder what happened.
Here again there’s a lot of wisdom built into the Scriptures, common sense stuff worked into the Scripture, great stuff. So the answer to the question in a nutshell is:
Next week we’ll go into a little more of the prophets and get straight on Israel and some vocabulary issues.