" ARE THERE FEW THAT
By baptism we become
members of spiritual Israel, and therefore all the experiences of natural
Israel must be relevant warnings
to us in some way. That such a significant proportion of God's revelation
in the Bible is concerning the Jews highlights this point. The uncanny
thing is that natural Israel
were a spiritual failure. Whilst the Gentiles were intended to be a more
productive tree for spiritual fruit, the following evidence suggests that
we should not be over confident that spiritual Israel
will be any better than natural Israel.
It seems that God's true people have always been a remnant of a remnant.
- The ecclesia in the
wilderness (Acts 7:38) were tempted to commit the same sins in principle
as we are tempted to (1 Cor.10:1-10). Twice Paul hammers home the point:
" These things were our examples...now all these things happened
unto them for ensamples; and are written (i.e. the process of inspiration
became operative) for our admonition" (v.6,11). Paul seems to read
the minds of many Gentile Christians as they quietly reason 'But that
was Israel- we Gentiles have
been called because we shall do better'; he warns that such an attitude
places us in grave spiritual danger: " Let him that thinketh he standeth
take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as
is common to man" (v.12,13). This could be paraphrased as follows:
'The Jews (" man" ) had the same human nature as you; if you
think that you can stand up to it better than they, then such spiritual
arrogance will lead you to fall'. Such reasoning goes against the grain
of what we would naturally like to hear, which is that we will certainly
reach salvation just as we are, with no conditions, and without having
to have any conflict with our sinful nature. Paul therefore concludes
by saying that only the spiritually wise will grasp his line of argument
here: " I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say" (v.14).
- The way the Lord speaks
of dividing the sheep from the goats and not vice versa could suggest
that there are far fewer sheep compared to goats (Mt. 25:32). This would
imply that the majority of those who are responsible are in the goat category.
- Paul's parable of
the Olive tree in Rom.11 warns that in some ways the Jewish branches are
preferable to the Gentile ones (11:24; 3:2; Jn.4:22). Because we stand
by faith, " be not highminded, but fear: for if God spared not the
natural branches, take heed lest he spare not thee" (v.20,21). By
the use of 'thee' (singular) rather than 'you' (plural) the impression
is being given that each Gentile believer is hanging on to his place in
God's purpose by the skin of his teeth, compared to the Jews. "
I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest
ye should be wise in your own conceits" (v.25).
- Paul perceived through
the Spirit that Isaiah cried aloud with passion the idea that although
there were many people theoretically " of Israel" in that they
were the seed of Abraham, only a remnant of them would be saved. And Paul
implies that this holds true in our dispensation too (Is. 10:22 cp. Rom.
- " Many"
of those who call Christ their Lord and who regularly break bread in his
presence, where two or three others are gathered believing they are in
his name, will find they are rejected, and they just won't be able
to understand why on earth they were rejected (Lk. 13:24-27 cp. Mt.
18:20). Anyone who thinks the majority of believers must surely make it
through to salvation needs to think again. Please God, we will- but "
many" (the Greek can mean, but not always, 'the majority') will be
in for this inexplicable (to them) rejection, when they were sure they'd
lived a good Christian life.
- Moses' sprinkling
of Israel with blood and then going away for forty days (the period of
probation), returning after a perceived delay to a people lost in revelry
with only a faithful minority, must point forward to our Lord's ascension
to the Father's presence after the blood sprinkling of the cross, and
His subsequent return. Christ's words of Mt.24:48,50 suggest he read this
incident along these lines: " That evil servant shall say in his
heart, My lord delayeth his coming (cp. " Where is the promise of
his coming?" and the people feeling Moses had delayed to return);
and shall begin to...eat and drink with the drunken (cp. " the people
sat down to eat and drink" , 1 Cor.10:7); the Lord of that servant
shall come...in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder"
- recalling the Levite's sudden massacre of the people on Moses' return.
If the return of Moses from the mount is indeed typical of the second
coming, then it would follow that the majority of the new Israel
will be unprepared at the Lord's return also.
- When the Lord said
that many are called but few chosen (Mt. 22:14), He was actually alluding
to a well known saying from 4 Ezra 8:3: “Many have been created, but few
shall be saved”. He was as it were raising the bar. It was to be a minority
of those called, not just a minority of all creation, who were to be saved.
- " Let us therefore
fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of
you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the Gospel preached
as well as unto them" (Heb.4:1,2). As in Rom.11, there is the command
to fear because of the real possibility of our being like natural Israel.
There is a very powerful parable in the account of the wilderness journey
through life, whereby the Red Sea represents baptism, eating the manna
daily corresponds to daily feeding on the word etc. This parable is alluded
to in so many parts of Scripture. However, only a minority of those baptized
in the Red Sea actually reached the promised land. Can we expect the parallel
with the new Israel to break
down at this point? An analysis of church news in one magazine over 40
years indicates that for every three baptisms there is one disfellowship-
and the ratio is worsening. Just look back at your own Christian experience
if you can't believe it. Add to this the number of those who spiritually
fall asleep, and the frightening similarity between natural and spiritual
Israel comes abruptly into focus.
The present materialism
of Israel and neglect of their
real responsibilities towards God may have some parallels with the position
of the new Israel. The
following words describe the reasons for the holocaust to come upon "
all Israel" : " Jeshurun
waxed fat, and kicked...then he forsook God which made him, and lightly
esteemed the rock (Jesus) of his salvation. They provoked Him to anger
with strange gods...newly come up (telly, flash cars and holidays), whom
your fathers (Abraham? Paul? Robert Roberts?) feared not...and when the
Lord saw it...He said, I will hid my face from them, I will see what their
end shall be (the holocaust will reveal our true colours)...they are...children
in whom is no faith...I will provoke them...with a foolish nation (the
beast)...I will heap mischiefs upon them...they shall be burnt with hunger,
and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction (the faithful
are described as coming out of a latter day tribulation of hunger, heat
and fire in Rev.7:14-17): I will also send the teeth of (Daniel's) beasts
upon them...O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they
would consider their latter end" (Dt.32). But perhaps this final
verse is embedded somewhere in Dan.12:10: " The wise (in our last
days) shall understand" - won't we.
Some may feel that considering
these things is unduly negative. Yet the Biblical facts as presented above
still remain. We must constantly remember that God is not willing that
any of His people should fail of His mercy. The history of Israel
is surely the supreme example of God's mercy and patience with sinful
man. We have been chosen because it was God's intention that we should
learn from the mistakes of Israel,
and thereby please Him where they failed to. This in itself underlines
the importance of constantly re-reading and meditating upon their history.
We can never be made too aware of the deceitfulness of sin within our
very nature; our nature is the same as Israel's.
This is why we need the constant warning not to feel that we are intrinsically
superior to them. Israel generally
failed to struggle against their human nature; yet God was love and patience
itself to them, and only rejected them with great pain to His own
fundamental nature, which is love and mercy. This should surely inspire
and gloriously encourage all of the new Israel
who, unlike natural Israel, do
at least strive, in their weakness, against sin.