What a miraculous occurrence it will be when the peoples of modern Israel finally understand who they are: the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! The idea that the "Lost Ten Tribes of Israel" can be found in the nations of the West is highly unpopular today. Those in the West who have even heard of this concept consider it somewhere between uneducated, wild-eyed fanaticism at best, and racism at worst. It is certainly not common knowledge, and right now, the peoples of Israel clearly do not want to believe this historical fact. As with the rest of God's truth that carnal man rejects, today's Israelites believe what they have been conditioned to believe (Ephesians 2:1-3) and what they want to believe.
This belief is so unpopular, at least in part, because upon accepting it, one must also accept the requirements and obligations that come with it. How often do Evangelical Protestant leaders—who often happen to be Israelites—make statements like "it is only the Jews who have to keep the law; Christians are under grace"? In this statement, they misunderstand both the intent of the law—it shows us how to live, rather than justifying us—and the identity of God's physical people today. This mindset, this pre-disposition, even among the religious, is so set against the reality of where God's people are that it will take something extraordinary for the scales to be stripped from the eyes—something like Jacob's Trouble. Atheists and secularists will take even more convincing, because they do not even believe in God or the Bible in the first place.
Nevertheless, this knowledge will be restored to Israel or at least to a remnant. We know from Israel's history that she does not like being called into account. She hates being told inconvenient truths or facts that oblige her to change. Thus, more often than not, her people killed the prophets, God's messengers sent to warn or to instruct. It usually took something calamitous—subjugation or captivity—before the Israelites would relent and listen to God.
Perhaps this is part of the reason why Jacob's Trouble will be so severe and why it is described as a time when there will be "great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time" (Matthew 24:21). Israelites are a tough people to crack, especially as they have become more secular, and a tremendous amount of distress will be needed for Israel to let go of her worldly predispositions and accept God's Word.
One way or another, though, this will take place. God will again ransom Israel from the hand of someone stronger, just as in the first Exodus. Similarly, Jeremiah 30:8 says that God will "break his yoke from [Israel's] neck, and will burst your bonds; foreigners shall no more enslave them." Isaiah 10:20 adds that "such as have escaped of the house of Jacob, will never again depend on him who defeated them, but will depend on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth."
The Israelites return with weeping and with pleas for mercy (Jeremiah 31:9; 50:4). They have been humbled, and now they can see both what is expected of them and how far short they have fallen. Broken because of the destruction, they can finally be reconciled with God. They finally recognize that they need Him, a concept foreign to the thinking of the nations of Israel today. He will once again be their Father, rather than being rejected and estranged as He is today. Ephraim will once again take his place as God's son. (Recall that Ephraim was the leading tribe in the north, and thus often represents all of the northern ten tribes.)
We can see more of this change of Ephraim's heart in Jeremiah 31:18-21:
"I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself: ‘You have chastised me, and I was chastised, like an untrained bull; restore me, and I will return, for You are the LORD my God. Surely, after my turning, I repented; and after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh; I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated, because I bore the reproach of my youth.' Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him," says the LORD. "Set up signposts, make landmarks; set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went. Turn back, O virgin of Israel, turn back to these your cities."
How different verses 18-19 sound from anything being spoken by the peoples of Israel today! After Jacob's Trouble, Israel will actually be grieving and moaning because of the correction that she receives. She will beg to be brought back to God. Verse 20 displays the unmistakable compassion and feeling that God has for His people, as well as His determination to lift them out of the pitiful physical and spiritual condition that they will be in at that point.
Verse 21 relates how Israel will reverse the course of her ancient migration, saying, "Set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went. Turn back. . . ." This indicates that Israel descends into this miserable condition and pleads for God's restoration before she makes the Second Exodus—just as Israel in Egypt cried out to the God of their fathers, and then God delivered them. Therefore, the identity of Israel will be recognized sometime during Jacob's Trouble, but before the Second Exodus takes place.
God will send messengers to remind Israel of her obligation to Him, and included within that reminder will be the knowledge of who Israel is. Israel will not listen—Israel has essentially never listened—thus God has no choice but to put the nations of Jacob through "trouble" such as they have never experienced. Even though God does not revel in destruction, He knows better than anyone does what it will take to turn His people around. At the end of it, the broken and repentant people who survive will be willingly led back to the Promised Land.
When God brings back the remnant of Israel, it will be rejoined by the remnant of Judah under the resurrected King David (Ezekiel 37:21-28; see also Hosea 1:11). At that time, the reconstituted nation of Israel, as well as the Promised Land in which they will dwell, will undergo a tremendous restoration and rejuvenation (Amos 9:13-15). Next time, in the final installment of this series, we will briefly examine this "restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21).
- David C. Grabbe
The Christian and the World (Part 6)
by John W. Ritenbaugh
In this sixth installment of the Christian and the World series, John Ritenbaugh explains the significance of the eye, clear vision, and light metaphors in Matthew 6:22-23, stating that the eye represents understanding (as the metaphorical eye of the heart) while the light represents truth. It is not enough to have knowledge of the right treasure; we also need to have the understanding of where all the pieces fit. Clear vision lightens the way spiritually, ethically, and morally. If the eye of the heart is aimed at spiritual treasure and the glory of God, it will remain singly focused. Using this spiritual vision or understanding, the best way to protect the heart is to saturate it with the word of God.
The Gun Lap
by Mike Ford
Over the years, we have been told many times that we are on the gun lap. What is this gun lap? Using his track experience, Mike Ford shows how we must give our all to reach our finish line!
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