The Grace of God

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

Named Israel, Named Sodom & Gomorrah

The name Israel seems to have several interrelated meanings, such as “May God prevail” and “He struggles with God” and “God rules” and “One who prevails with God” and “A prince with God.” It was given to Jacob after he struggled with the Angel of the Lord, was overcome by Him, and yet received the blessing of the Lord through perseverance. It became the name of a nation that was originally ruled by God until that nation decided it wanted earthly kings like other nations–a decision which God declared was a rejection of Him. Over a period of many years, individuals were “cut off from Israel” when they rejected His rule. They may not have always been forcibly and visibly evicted from the land, but God always knew who was His. Those who were truly His were the “Israel of God.” Those who were not truly His were merely the “Israel after the flesh.”

The blessing of Israel–and name change– comes to all those who struggle with God and learn to be mastered by Him. Many Gentiles were grafted into the true Vine of Israel (Jesus) under the Old Testament/Covenant. From the time Israel left Egypt with Egyptians in tow, to the saving of Rahab’s family in Jericho, to the grafting in of Ruth the Moabitess–by the time Christ walked the earth, there were already many “proselytes”–Gentile followers of the God of Israel. Though they were not native born, they were considered Israelites and Jews. The laws were the same for the native born or the “stranger,” and the stranger was considered one of God’s people unless he violated God’s covenant (Num. 15:30; Josh. 8:32-34). Strangers were to be well treated and accepted as “one born among you” (Lev. 19:33-34; Deut. 10:19). In fact, Israelites were to help strangers live among them if they desired to (Lev. 25:35), and anyone who perverted the justice due the stranger would be cursed (Deut. 27:19).

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Paul and Barnabas eventually declared that most Jews had judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life, and that they would now turn their full attention to the Gentiles. This was not the first time Gentile branches were grafted into the Olive Tree, but it did throw open the door wider than ever before. Mobilized by the great commission and persecution, Jewish believers and their Gentile converts began to spread out and preach with great boldness the way into the Kingdom of God (God’s Israel). And the predominantly Jewish writers of the New Testament gave us many teachings that clear up the misconceptions many Jews had adopted and were teaching others–namely that their physical lineage to Abraham gave them special rights with God. They taught the spiritual nature of the Israel of God, the heavenly Jerusalem contrasted with the earthly, and how a true Jew has a circumcised heart.

Listen to what our brother John wrote:

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. (Rev. 3:12)

Those who “overcome” (like Jacob/Israel) will become pillars in God’s temple, nevermore to leave it! And what name is written on them?–“New Jerusalem.”

But what about those who do not overcome? What about those of natural Israel who do not struggle with God and persevere through trial to receive the blessing of God?

Jeremiah spoke of natural Israel’s sin extensively.  I have just completed a study of Jeremiah 1-23, and the following is a quick survey of those chapters, showing what natural Israel looked like to God while in disobedience:

Israel’s sin was marked before God (2:22) and He had divorced them (3:8), but would remain married only to the remnant who would return to Him (3:14). They had perverted their way (3:21) and only repentance could save them (4:14). Should He not avenge Himself on such a nation as this (5:9, 29), in spite of their insistence that He never would? (5:12-13)

Were they not deceitful, greedy, and unconcerned with the needs of the fatherless and the needy? (5:25-31) Was this not a city to be punished, full of oppression and welling up with wickedness? (6:6-7) Didn’t they have uncircumcised ears, and didn’t they have no delight in God’s Word ?(6:10) Weren’t they given to covetousness (6:13) and unashamed of their sins (6:15)?

The Lord rejects them, declares the prophet! (6:30) Did they think they could steal, murder, commit adultery and worship false gods and then use God’s name, saying, “We are delivered to do all these abominations?” (7:9-10) Hadn’t God already shown He would punish a land where He put His name if the people were wicked? (6:12)

Wasn’t it obedience God wanted (7:23)? Yet this nation would not obey (7:28). They instead held fast to deceit (8:7). They claimed the law of God was with them while they, in fact, rejected God’s Word (8:8-9). “Peace, peace,” they cried, but how can there be peace to wicked people who aren’t even ashamed of their sins? (8:11-12)

The natural vine/fig tree is barren, and the things God gave them shall pass away from them! (8:13) God’s devouring horses of judgment would come to destroy them (8:14-16).

They were not valiant for truth (9:3) and refused to know God (9:6). God would scatter them among the nations and send a sword after them (9:16) in hopes that they would learn to mourn appropriately for their sin, and come to understand and know God in truth (8:20-24). For every uncircumcised heart will be punished, regardless of nationality! (9:25-26).

The inhabitants of the land would be thrown out (10:18), for those who don’t obey God’s covenant are CURSED not blessed (11:1-5). Without repentance and obedience, the olive tree would have branches broken off, and there would be DOOM pronounced on what God had planted (11:6-17–compare this to the olive tree teaching of Romans 11). God would fill them with drunkenness and destroy them (13:12-14), and no prayer, fasting, or offerings made for them would help (14:11-12). Because their hearts were determined to sin, they would lose the heritage God previously gave them! (17:1-4) All who forsake God will be ashamed (17:13).

Obedience would cause the city to remain forever (17:25) but disobedience would bring an unquenchable fire (17:27). For the Potter is sovereign, and His blessing on a nation is conditional and revocable (18:1-10). The people had made Israel “an alien place” and filled it with innocent blood (19:4-5), thus the vessel would be broken by the Potter (19:11). God Himself would fight against them (21:5) because of their sin (21:12-14). The “house” would become a desolation (22:5–fulfilled according to Jesus in Matt. 23:38 after the nation, as a whole, again rejected God).

Woe to those who build by unrighteousness and injustice (22:13); for truly knowing God is doing righteousness and justice, and caring for the poor and needy (22:15-16). God would pluck the unrepentant off and cast them out (22:24-26). Even the shepherds, prophets and priests were profane, and their wickedness was found “in God’s house” (23:1-11). The hands of evildoers are strengthened by them, so that none repent; ALL OF THEM ARE LIKE SODOM TO ME, AND HER INHABITANTS LIKE GOMORRAH (23:14).

I will stop here at this climax in Jer. 23:14, in which the prophet declares thatwhat was supposed to be “Israel” is actually like Sodom and Gomorrah to God. Why? God calls it like He sees it, dear friends. Those who sin like the devil are “children of the devil”–not children of Abraham, nor children of God (John 8:41-44). Those who sin like Sodom and Gomorrah are like Sodom and Gomorrah to Him. Even if He has at one time placed His name on a person/place, He will destroy that person/place if obedience is not maintained. There is no racial once-saved-always-saved. There is no national once-saved-always-saved. There is no “once an Israelite, always an Israelite” if we are talking about the Israel of God. The land of God has always been able to vomit out transgressors, and always will be. There is no blessing once procured from the Potter that makes a vessel immune to His wrath, should that vessel later reject His authority. You can be “Israel” one day, and “Sodom” the next, if you turn away from the Living God.

The Old and New Testament prophets knew this and declared it to their countrymen, despite the hatred and persecution it brought upon them.

In light of this, what shall we think of the modern state of Israel, which is growing and maintaining its border with theft, lies, oppression, and bloodshed? Should we “bless” them? Should we defend what they do, or help them do it? Should we malign those who call for justice and righteousness, and silence those who expose their wicked works (as the prophets did)? Should we believe and profess that God is doing a great work there through guns and bombs and savagery? God forbid! The name of “Israel” is not for the wicked. The name of “the New Jerusalem” is not for thieves and murderers, but for overcomers who have learned to lay down their own lives for Jesus and His righteous kingdom (Rev. 3:12). Those of the synagogue of satan, who say they are Jews but are not, but lie–they are known by their works!! Even if your eschatology allows for an end-times revival of Jews, surely this group of evil-doers called “zionists” is NOT THAT, and must not ever receive the blessing of the saints so long as wicked works are done by them.

In closing, I want to draw your attention to Rev. 11:8–

And their dead bodies (the bodies of the two witnesses) will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

Now, which city is here called spiritually Sodom and Egypt? In which city was our Lord crucified? Was it not Jerusalem? And by what right does our brother John rename the earthly Jerusalem “Sodom and Egypt” spiritually? Think about that, friends. Often what the world accepts as a “holy place” is a hotbed of idolatry and the very seat of satan. The time is upon us that believers must worship God in Spirit and truth, not on this mountain or that mountain (Jn. 4:21-24).

May God help us to be faithful to the truth, and to continue in true righteousness as we abide in Jesus.

He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,” him the people will curse; nations will abhor him. But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them. (Prov. 24:24-25)

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