The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

Israel of God–Set Apart from the Nations

Insight #2 — The ancient, earthly nation of Israel was blessed while obedient AND separated from the nations.

Part of Balaam’s prophecy concerning ancient Israel is as follows:

“How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced? For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him; there! A people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations…Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!” (Num. 23:8-10)

It is interesting that Balaam saw Israel as a righteous people “dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations.”

God had commanded Israel to be careful not to worship idols as other nations (Deut. 12:29-30; 2 Kin. 17:15). They were to be set apart to worship only God.

In Num. 24:8, Balaam prophesied that God would “consume the nations, his enemies.” Are all the nations God’s enemies? Although the Canaanite nations of that day were in view in the prophecy, it seems that Scripture supports the idea that nations in general are His enemies.

In Psa. 2, “the nations” are said to be conspiring against the Lord and His Anointed. They are God’s enemies, but they are promised to the Son, Who will break them with a rod of iron and dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel. Daniel wrote about a righteous kingdom that would consume all others (Dan. 2:44).

It should be understood that this ancient Israel, which was separated from the ungodly nations, is not the same as the Israeli state that exists in the Middle East today. The modern state of Israel, though it has the same name, does not have the same purpose or the same right standing with God. It is a nation like all other carnal nations, recently founded and defended not by righteousness and a command of God, but by an armed military (and its allies) which forcibly took land from people who already lived there. It does not even pretend to appreciate our Messiah Jesus–the Prophet to Whom Moses said Israel must listen (Deut. 18:15-19). It is not what Paul called The Israel of God in Gal. 6:16.

Unfortunately, even ancient Israel eventually decided they wanted to be like all the nations, and God declared that this desire was a rejection of His reign over them (I Sam. 8:4-7). Israel replaced their true King (the Lord) with a carnal king, and also followed the nations in their idolatry, greed, and other wicked behaviors. The true Israel of God–or “people of God”–is faithful to Him, but ancient Israel had become a harlot nation just like all the rest. This is why God said to those who were known as His people, “You are not my people.” (Hos. 1:9) It is also why Paul later wrote, “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel.” (Rom. 9:6)

Eventually the land vomited them out for their rebellion, though a remnant was able to return later, out of which Jesus was born. In His birth and subsequent death and resurrection, the promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his Seed was fulfilled. The other physical land promises had all been fulfilled as well (Josh. 21:43-45). Many of the promises written in the prophets are meant to be applied to the spiritual Israel of God (a “new man” of Jews and Gentiles united in faith) which is saved through Jesus’ sacrifice. I know this is contrary to what most churches (and famous storytellers like Tim LaHaye) are teaching, nevertheless I am confident the Scriptures bear this out. Not only was Christ’s suffering predicted in the law and prophets, but also His kingdom–which has no end. He said this kingdom does not come with observation but is within the hearts of those who submit to Him (Lk. 17:21), and that it is “not of this world.” (Jn. 18:36) He declared that His kingdom was “at hand” when He walked on the earth…why?–because it was future? No, but because it was here. All who repented and put their faith in Him would be translated into His kingdom–the kingdom that is not of this world, or not reckoning itself among the nations. Members of this kingdom are ambassadors to the kingdoms of this world. Their true citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).

So who is the Israel of God? It is the remnant of the faithful from every nation (including ancient Israel) who are all joined into one new man (Eph. 2:15) whose Head and Redeemer is Christ.

“Out of Egypt” God called His Son Israel, wrote the prophet Hosea (11:1). And Matthew came with greater light to tell us that this Son is Jesus (2:15). He is the absolute fulfillment of the foreshadowing events. Ancient Israel was a typological vine (Isa. 5), but Jesus is the True Vine (John 15:1). Nathanael was a carnal Israelite by blood, but Jesus called him an Israelite indeed because he had such an honest character (John 1:47). Zacchaeus was almost certainly a Hebrew by birth, but Jesus named him as a son of Abraham after his repentance and salvation (Lk. 19:8-9). The Pharisees could trace their lineage to Abraham, but Jesus denied their relation to him based on their works (Jn. 8:39-44). When they came unrepentant to John the Baptist, he told them their physical relation to Abraham meant nothing, but God could raise up children to Abraham from the stones (Matt. 3:7-12). Paul told the Gentile Galatians that God had indeed raised up children to Abraham, and his descendants are those who have faith (Gal. 3:7).

And this Israel of God is still not reckoning itself among the nations! It’s allegiance is to God, and therefore it is persecuted everywhere it exists. Yes, ALL nations will hate Jesus’ disciples (Matt. 24:9).

Moses was a good example of a man who could have had power and pleasure as part of a strong nation, but he chose affliction with the people of God and the reproach of Christ as greater riches (Heb. 11:24-26). The reproach of Who?!–of Christ, even in Old Testament times. The faithful people of God were always connected to Christ by faith, even before He came in the flesh.

Abraham likewise left his homeland. The very land of Promise (ancient Israel) to which he journeyed never became for him the ultimate fulfillment of God’s Word. It was to him like a foreign country. This was a man with his spiritual eyes opened! His longing was for the city God Himself would build, in a heavenly–not an earthly–country (Heb. 11:9-16). He was a continual pilgrim on this earth, as all of God’s true people have been (Lev. 25:23; I Chron. 29:15; Psa. 39:12; Psa. 84:5; Psa. 119:54; Heb. 11:13; I Pet. 2:11).

Is this mindset that we Christians have today? Are we willing to be separated from our earthly homeland, wherever that is? Are we able to make righteous judgments about the nations and their status before God, or is our judgment clouded with sentimentality, whitewashed history, and the false teaching of carnally minded men who make lots of money off their careless theories? Do we see that the land promised (and given) to ancient Israel is still just another foreign country? Are we longing for the heavenly country? Are we separated in our hearts from the nations (enemies of God), so that we can be a light to them, in full contrast to their darkness and idolatry? Have we pledged our allegiance to Jesus, so that He can speak to the nations through us, or are we pledging allegiance to His enemies? Are we divided and doubleminded? We cannot serve two masters despite what many voices teach. We will love one and hate the other.

We had better choose carefully. God’s people are set apart.

Note: For more study on a biblical understanding of Israel, some of the clearest teaching I have found on this subject can be read here or watched here.

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