Isaiah 35:1-7 prophesies that, after the return of Jacob's descendants to the Promised Land, the desert will bloom, the hearts of the people will be strengthened, and the sick will be healed. Ezekiel 36:8-12 concurs: The land will produce abundantly, the people will grow in number, and the old cities will be rebuilt. God will deliver them from their iniquities, undo the land's desolation, and bless the fruit of the fields and the trees (Ezekiel 36:25-36). Israel will be comforted and given hope, and she will finally call God "My Husband" (Hosea 2:14-16).
More importantly, Israel will undergo a spiritual rejuvenation. Jeremiah 31:31-34 provides an encouraging conclusion to the saga of Israel and Judah:
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, "Know the LORD," for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. (See also Ezekiel 37:26; Jeremiah 50:5, 20)
God promises to make the New Covenant with Israel and Judah. The author of Hebrews quotes these verses twice (Hebrews 8:8-12; 10:16-17) to show that this covenant is identical to the one God has made with the church. Rather than doing away with God's law, this covenant gives the people the means, not merely to obey it, but actually to understand it and make it a part of their lives. God will forgive their sins, and the Israelites will be the witnesses to the rest of the world that God intended them to be (see Deuteronomy 4:5-8; Isaiah 62:1-2).
Even though this covenant is made primarily with Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 31:31), it is not exclusive. Through Isaiah, God shows that those Gentiles who submit themselves to God will also make this covenant. Of particular interest is the requirement that the Sabbath be kept by those wishing to make the covenant (Isaiah 56:1-2, 6-8).
Finally, Ezekiel 11:17, 19-21 foretells of God giving Israel a new heart—a spiritual heart that will enable them to keep His commandments and statutes. Throughout its history, the essential difficulty in Israel's relationship with God was one of the heart. God exclaims, "Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!" (Deuteronomy 5:29). In Hebrew 3:10, God again identifies this problem: "Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.'"
A person's heart or spirit is the center of all thought, reason, and motivation. Human nature being what it is, the natural—unconverted—heart is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9). It has an innate and powerful pull toward the self, always evaluating according to what it perceives as good for itself regardless of the effect on others. Mankind's history records about 6,000 years of such self-centered and destructive living, making the conclusion inescapable: Man is simply unable to govern himself for very long. He needs direction and leadership from a higher—divine—source.
As far as it went, the Old Covenant that God made with Israel was a good covenant—a good agreement—because anything that comes from God is good. The problem, then, was not with the terms of the agreement, but with the people making it (Hebrews 8:7-8, 10). They lacked the right heart that would have allowed them to follow God and obey His laws. To the repentant Israelites, along with any others who desire to covenant with Him, God will give a new heart—a new spirit, His Holy Spirit (see Jeremiah 32:37-42; Ezekiel 36:26-27; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:28-29).
This is the same spirit that Jesus promised His disciples, a power that would allow them—through their words and especially through the conduct of their lives—to be witnesses of God (Acts 1:8; see Luke 24:49). It is a spirit of power, love, and sound-mindedness (II Timothy 1:7)—a balanced mind, having the concerns of God at its core. Such a mind is inclined to obey God and to seek Him as the only Source of solutions in a world that continues to prove that it lacks the means or disposition to live in a way that is good for everybody eternally.
With this new heart and spirit, Israel will become the model nation that He intended her to be, and the rest of the world will see that God's way—including His commandments, statutes, and judgments—produces peace and abundance. Because of their Source, it is the nature of God's laws to bring prosperity, health, abundance, peace, and contentment (Deuteronomy 4:5-8). Yet, the lawkeeper must have the same spirit—heart—as the Lawgiver to understand and keep the laws in their true spiritual intent. Now motivated by the same essential Spirit as God Himself, Israel's example will be so striking that the rest of humanity will desire to live the same way, and will seek, not only God's laws, but God Himself (Zechariah 8:20-23; Ezekiel 37:27-28).
Thus, God will chastise, humble, restore, and bless Israel with a new heart so that she can show the rest of the world how to live, for "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).
Through the many prophecies concerning Israel, the Creator God's faithfulness is seen at every turn. Because of His faithfulness to His promises, He will overshadow the Exodus from Egypt with a Second Exodus. In faithfulness, God will again turn the tide of history, bringing His people out of the depths of desperation and causing the nations that oppressed Jacob to be plundered and made captive. Faithful to His purpose for Israel, God will humble her and bring her to repentance. He will not make a complete end of her, but faithful to His promises, He will do what He must to bring her to the spiritual condition and physical location that He planned long ago, raising her to new heights.
Through it all, though His promises span thousands of years, God remains faithful.
- David C. Grabbe
Sanctification and Holiness (Part 1)
by John W. Ritenbaugh
In this introductory message on Sanctification and Holiness, John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that we are manufactured goods designed specifically to glorify God. We have been summoned or separated from the rest of the world for the specific purpose of having God reproduced in ourselves — becoming clean and pure, transformed into God's image. As God's royal priesthood, we have a responsibility to draw near to God, keeping His commandments, witnessing to the world that God is God. Chipping away at the living stones, fitting them into their proper places, God works continually shaping and fashioning His new creation (II Corinthians 5:17).
The Mixed Multitude
by Charles Whitaker
When the mixed multitude came out of Egypt with Israel, God gave them an opportunity to join His chosen people. Charles Whitaker weaves together some vital lessons for us from this.
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