“And the king lamented for Abner, saying,
“Should Abner die as a fool dies?” (2 Samuel 3:33)
These were the words of mourning that King David spoke concerning Abner after he was killed by Joab. Abner, the man who had placed the son of Saul, Ishbosheth, upon the throne of Israel (2 Samuel 2:8-9) had been an enemy of King David during a great civil war. David had become king over Judah and, by the direction of the Lord, had ruled from the city of Hebron (2 Sam. 2:1-2).
It had been God’s intention that David would rule over a united Israel and Judah (1 Sam. 16:1), yet Abner and many who had been loyal to Saul sought to continue the reign of the House of Saul by anointing his son as king. Seeking to resolve the issue and, hopefully, avoid an all-out war between the kingdoms, the two sides met at Gibeon to negotiate a solution. Abner, leader of the armies of Israel, suggested to Joab, leader of David’s army, that twelve champions from each side be appointed that day to fight each other with the end result determining which side would be victorious (2 Sam. 2:14-15).
Neither side prevailed and all twenty-four combatants lay dead at the end of the contest (v. 16). Without a clear victor, the total war which both sides had sought to avoid ensued immediately after with the armies of Judah dominating the enemies of King David. As the forces of Israel retreated, one of Joab’s brothers, Asahel, described as an exceptionally fast runner, pursued Abner, rapidly closing the distance between them (v. 19). Knowing that he clearly outmatched his pursuer and, not wishing to kill the brother of Joab, whom he clearly respected, Abner called out to Asahel imploring him to come no further.
“If you must have more of the blood of your enemies, then take the life of one of my soldiers. But if you insist on continuing to follow me, I will have to kill you and I do not wish to do so“, Abner pleaded (v. 22). Asahel, however, would not be dissuaded. As Abner had stated, he really did not wish to kill Asahel because we are told he struck him in the stomach with the butt-end of his spear (v.23). Nevertheless, the spear handle pierced the young man’s belly, ending his life.
Joab and the armies of Judah continued their pursuit of Abner and his men until nightfall when both sides expressed their desire to end the pursuit (2 Sam. 2:26-29). The next day, both armies would return home, yet the war itself would be long and bitter (2 Sam. 3:1).
Abner grew more and more powerful during the civil war even as the armies of Israel lost ground and became weaker. Abner, it seems, did as he pleased even having an affair with one of King Ishbosheth’s father Saul’s former concubines (2 Sam. 3:7). When Ishbosheth challenged Abner over the matter, Abner became enraged and switched sides, offering himself into the service of King David.
After Abner joined the side of Judah and King David, he used his former position of power in Israel to attempt to negotiate a peace treaty with the leaders in Ishbosheth’s kingdom and to advocate for the rule of David over a united kingdom. Joab, still bitter over the death of his brother Asahel, rebuked King David for trusting the former leader of Israel’s armies and accused Abner of being a spy (v. 24-25).
The Death Of Abner
What happened next is very interesting and worthy of our close consideration. Verses 26-29 read as follows:
“When Joab came out from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern of Sirah. But David did not know about it. And when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the stomach, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother. Afterward, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the Lord for the blood of Abner the son of Ner. May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!” (2 Samuel 3:26-29)
Joab is clearly motivated by the desire for avenging his brother and kills Abner by striking him in the stomach; the same way in which Asahel had died by the hand of Abner. Yet while Asahel had been killed accidentally and in self-defense, the death of Abner was cold-blooded murder. Joab had lured Abner outside of the city of Hebron to the outer gate with the deception that he wished to speak with him in private. King David, clearly appalled by the deed, denounces the act and stresses the fact that he and his government were in no way complicit, even pronouncing a curse on Joab and his family. But his words over Abner are peculiar when he declares that he “died as a fool dies.” Why?
“But if the manslayer shall at any time go beyond the boundaries of his city of refuge to which he fled, and the avenger of blood finds him outside the boundaries of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood.” (Numbers 35:26-27)
Hebron was a City of Refuge under the Law of Moses (Joshua 21:13) where a person guilty of manslaughter was safe from retribution by those seeking to avenge the person they unintentionally killed. Within the walls of the Cities of Refuge, a person could not legally be killed in vengeance for blood accidentally spilled. But if they went outside the walls of those cities, then they were no longer protected.
Abner died as a fool dies because he left the safety and protection of Hebron and stepped out of the gate where Joab, though not morally justified, was legally justified in killing him. Even David, the king, had no legal recourse to hold Joab accountable for murdering Abner. Abner abandoned the place of safety and refuge and it cost him his life.
How many people today can it be said of that they will die as a fool dies because they do not enter into the safety and refuge of the Lord Jesus Christ? How many will perish unnecessarily because they refuse the protection of our Place of Refuge? What deception, what temptation, will lure us away from the safety of Salvation in Jesus?
Abner spoke the truth about God and God’s chosen king, David (2 Sam. 3:17-18), yet that failed to save him. Neither will religion and speaking the right words about God save us. Abner was a sinner with like passions as we have, but it wasn’t that sin that disqualified him from entering into and remaining in the Refuge provided. Sin does not bar our entry into the Salvation provided by Jesus Christ, no, sin is the impetus which makes refuge necessary.
There are those who stand just outside the gate of Refuge today, perhaps even some who will read this. Safety and protection lies so close at hand and they will not enter in and be protected. They might even attend church, read the Bible, and live their lives morally. But if they die apart from the Refuge of trusting in Jesus Christ for Salvation, they will die as a fool dies.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
All Scripture quotations in this article are taken from:
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]
“In any study of the Tabernacle, there is not much to say that has not already been said. “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12) has definite application to treatments of the Tabernacle. Therefore, the desire for novelty has not entered into the making of this thesis. Rather, the works of others have been drawn upon copiously, and most of this thesis is a restatement that constitutes a revision of previous works.” 
Dr. J. Vernon McGee opened the preface to his outstanding booklet on the Tabernacle with these words of explanation and I would like to open my own treatment of the study of the Tabernacle with a similar annotation. To pretend or imply in any manner that the concepts comprising the commentary which will follow over the next few posts in this study has originated with this writer or is the product of my own spiritual insights would be dishonest and a grave disservice to the spiritual giants whose shoes may never be filled. The revelations which were shared through their own writings and preaching were doubtlessly obtained through tireless prayer, unwavering dedication to the study of the Word, and a closeness to the Spirit of God the likes of which few will ever attain. With this in mind, I gratefully acknowledge the works of many others who lived in times past for their service and ministry without which I would have very little to say concerning the portion of Scripture wherein we now find ourselves. That they could see figures and symbols of the Lord Jesus Christ within the blueprints of the Old Testament Tabernacle is, to me, utterly amazing. That they took the time to record their insights for the rest of us is a great act of Christian love and service to the Lord at its finest.
Symbols, Types, And Figures In The Tabernacle
“Nothing [in the Book of Exodus] may be dogmatically asserted to be a type without explicit New Testament authority; and all types not so authenticated must be recognized as having the authority of analogy, or spiritual congruity, merely.” Dr. C.I. Scofield 
A “type”, theologically speaking, is something that symbolically represents something else in the Bible. Usually, types are things in the Old Testament that point toward the Lord Jesus Christ and His work. Sometimes referred to as a figure in the KJV, many persons and things from the Old Testament are specifically referred to as types of Christ (e.g., Adam in Rom. 5:14, or Isaac in Heb. 11:19). We will see in this study that many of the details of the furniture of the Tabernacle are also types of Christ, yet we do well to consider Dr. Scofield’s words of warning before we get into the specifics. Although many believe (as I do also) that every single hook and thread of the Tabernacle is there for a specific reason and they all point toward the Person and work of Jesus Christ, it can be easy to get a little carried away and begin to insist on interpretations as bona fide doctrines. Unless we have the direct authority of Scripture, we can only suggest the meanings, interpretations and symbolism present and must never become dogmatic or divisive. While I am firmly convinced of the accuracy of the symbols and types we will explore, I am in no way prepared to argue or debate for their veracity.
Having said that, we should now consider that there does exist a Scriptural basis for interpreting the details of the Tabernacle as typical and for suggesting a figurative interpretation of its furniture. 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 makes it clear that the persons and events of the Book of Exodus are recorded for our learning. The Apostle Paul tells us twice (vv. 6 and 11) that these events were examples given for our own admonition. Likewise, the writer to the Hebrews calls the Tabernacle itself a symbol of something which would later be fulfilled in Christ (cf. Heb. 9:8-11). Therefore, it is not without merit to suppose that every detail given of the Tabernacle and its furniture is rich with meaning and symbolism and that its specifications and details are not given in order that we might better understand Hebrew architecture, but that we might better understand the grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior. After all, the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to write but a single verse about the creation of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1) and 15 chapters about the construction of the Tabernacle (Ex. 25-40). There must be a great deal more importance to it than the mere mathematical dimensions and properties of an enormous tent.
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution. This is the contribution which you are to raise from them: gold, silver and bronze, blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, rams’ skins dyed red, porpoise skins, acacia wood, oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece. Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.” (Exodus 25:1-9)
Gold speaks of Deity, or the manifestation of God. Silver refers to redemption or atonement. In Exodus 30:11-16 , half a shekel of silver is enumerated as atonement money to be given as an offering for the redemption of the souls of each adult Hebrew. The Tabernacle would rest upon sockets of silver, just as the life of the Christian rests upon the atoning work of redemption in Christ. The curtains of the doors were suspended from silver bands and hooks (Ex. 27:16-17), thus the way of access to the Presence of God was through redemption and atonement.
Brass/bronze speaks of judgment. The bronze altar (Ex. 27) and the bronze serpent (Num. 21:6-9) refer to sin judged and point directly to the Cross of Christ.
Blue, purple, and scarlet find their symbolism in the Person of Jesus Christ. Blue denotes the heavenly origin of Christ while purple speaks of His royalty as King and Descendant of David. Scarlet represents the spilled blood of sacrifice poured out on Calvary.
Fine linen speaks of personal righteousness, intertwined in the Person of Jesus Christ (Ex. 26:1), the only Righteous, and present in the hangings of the court of the Tabernacle, reminding any who would approach the Holy Place of the righteousness that God requires of those who would approach Him. Only through the Gate of the Court (Ex. 27:16) could God be approached; through the righteousness of Christ we find our access to God, never through our own. For He is that Door through which man must come to God (John 10:9).
The Skins Of Animals speak of sacrifice. Ram’s skins dyed red represent the blood of lambs and calves sacrificed for the atonement of sin; yet they looked further toward the Blood of Jesus Christ which alone is sufficient to cover the transgressions of man (cf. Heb. 9:11-14).
Lord willing, I would like to begin looking at the specific furniture within the Tabernacle next time, starting with the Ark of the Covenant.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.
 Quotation taken from “The Tabernacle: God’s Portrait of Christ” by: Dr. J. Vernon McGee. Property of Thru The Bible Radio Network www.ttb.org
 Taken from “The Scofield Reference Bible” (Old Scofield edition) notes by: Dr. C.I. Scofield © 1909, 1917, 1937, 1945 Oxford University Press, Inc.
“Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.” (Exodus 23:20)
Back in our study of Genesis in the 16th chapter, I wrote a post titled, “Who Is The Angel Of The Lord?” In that post I presented my reasons for believing that the Angel of the Lord mentioned in the Old Testament is the pre-incarnate Christ. The Angel of the Lord is the Lord Jesus Christ. Although He is not called the Angel of the Lord here in Exodus 23, it is apparent, I believe, that this is One and the Same “Angel.”
God the Father tells Moses:
“Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him.” (Exodus 23:21)
Being that this “Angel” possesses the prerogative of forgiving transgressions, an attribute unique to God alone (cf. Mark 2:5-10), and the fact that the Lord states that His name is in Him, we are left with no other conclusion as to His identity. Additionally, the manifestation of this Angel is recorded over in Joshua 5:13-15 where He identified Himself as the “Captain of the host of the Lord.” He presents Himself as the One Who will now lead the armies of the Lord against the Canaanites, just as God first declared in the passage before us now (Exodus 23:20). This Captain of the host instructs Joshua to remove his shoes, for he is standing on holy ground, just as the voice coming from the burning bush told Moses years before (Exodus 3:2-5). There can be no doubt that the voice which came from the burning bush and that which came from the Captain of the host were the same voice.
The Presence of the Lord Went With Them
With that in mind, I would like to take a moment to consider a few of the implications of what we read in the latter portion of Exodus 23. First, we see that the very Presence of God was promised to go with the Children of Israel when they marched into battle. “Be on your guard before him…do not be rebellious toward him” (v. 21) they are told. The Lord was going to be right there in their midst when they entered the land. Secondly, the Presence of God went ahead of them. Although the same Hebrew term is used in verses 20, 27, and 28 and is rendered in some Bible versions (e.g., ESV and KJV) as before in all three places, there are really two distinct nuances to the word (just as in the English word before). In one sense, it means in the presence of. This is the sense of verse 20 where the Angel is described as going with them. But when it is used in verses 27 and 28, it is better translated ahead of (as versions such as the NASB and NIV do). The meaning there is that it will precede or go out in advance of (as the word before can also mean in English).
“I will send my terror ahead of you…I will send hornets ahead of you…” (Exodus 23:27a, 28a, emphasis added)
Not only would the Lord go with them, He would go out ahead of them. Wherever the feet of the Israelites would step in the land where God was bringing them, they could be certain that it was a place where He had already gone. In fact, we see that God was already fighting and winning the battles before the Hebrews would even arrive! The terror of the Lord would fall upon the Canaanites driving them out and causing sheer panic to ensue. It is interesting to note that God does not give instructions to the Children of Israel to fight or struggle against their enemies, no, the Lord says that He will destroy their adversaries (v. 23). The only real responsibility of the Israelites is to obey God and not rebel against Him.
The time would come for the Hebrews to raise weapons against the Canaanites whom God was driving out of the land, but that was not where the battle was to be won or lost. The battle at that point had already been pre-determined, the victory had already been won by the Lord. The Israelites were called to walk in the victory that had already been secured by the pre-incarnate Christ.
The Reason For Delay
“I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.” (Exodus 23:29-30)
The second factor that I would like to point out is that God had very specific reasons for not allowing the Hebrews to conquer the land too quickly. Could God have simply struck every Canaanite dead instantly before the Children of Israel even arrived on the scene? Of course. Or could the Lord have led them to conquer every stronghold in Canaan in a matter of a few weeks or even days? Sure. But such a quick conquest would have produced a lot of other problems as a consequence. A drastic, rapid dwindling of the population would have eventually allowed the proliferation of too many wild animals roaming the countryside, threatening human life and wreaking havoc on the Hebrews’ livestock and farmlands once they were settled in. Additionally, without sufficient numbers of the current populace remaining during the transition, the entire infrastructure of the land would collapse, leaving the land essentially desolate, before the Israelites even had a chance to set up their own civilization. God graciously chose to reveal His reasons for delaying the Hebrews’ immediate total conquest, even though they themselves certainly would have preferred a speedy victory over waiting longer to fully inhabit the land.
In conclusion, we are reminded in this passage from Exodus of some very important lessons for our own walk with the Angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ. First of all, the Lord never calls us to fight the enemy in our own strength, but to obey Him, not rebel against Him, and to walk in the victory that He has already won. His “terror” has already gone out before us and we can be certain that, wherever we ourselves set foot, He has already been there and has already secured the victory for us. It is not our responsibility to go out and fight, but rather to obey Him and walk in His victory over the enemy.
Second, we must realize that, though the fruits of the victory might be seemingly delayed, it will come in God’s perfect timing. Whatever difficulties we find ourselves in, we must realize that God has His reasons for not immediately delivering us out of them. Perhaps the greater grace and kindness is to allow us to remain in those circumstances a little longer, lest we be delivered and find ourselves in a worse situation! Sometimes even the most faithful of Christians remain in times of trial for a duration that can leave them wondering if God has forgotten them altogether. Sometimes, deliverance never comes at all. But it is never because God does not care or desire what is best for us. We do not always know the ramifications of God delivering us too quickly, but He does. God, in His infinite wisdom, knows the consequences of every action He might possibly take and loves us too much to ever rush His own perfect timing.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.
“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:” (Romans 11:26)
Last time, we looked at the condition of the individual Hebrew in relation to Israel’s rejection of their coming Messiah. We considered that the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 11 that, essentially, the Jew stands on the very same ground as the Gentile; he is free to come to Christ in faith and be saved on that basis. One’s nationality is neither a disadvantage or advantage when it comes to the Gospel, for the call of Christ goes out to members of every race and country. But what about the nation of Israel as a whole? God is preserving a remnant out of the nation of Israel, but does that mean that He is forever through with the nation itself?
One of the most peculiar Bible misinterpretations, in my opinion, is the notion that God has forever turned His back on Israel and is actually hostile toward the Hebrew people. Such a twisted theology has been grounds in the past for horrific persecutions of Jews by many claiming to be Christians. Anti-Semitism was quite common in the Medieval Catholic Church and was carried over into the Protestant Reformation. No less a figure than the great reformer, Martin Luther, carried a strong bitterness toward the Jewish race most famously expressed in his book, On the Jews and Their Lies, where he made the statement:
“[The Jews are] a base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth.” (for more documentation on Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic writings, Click Here and Here)
My point is not to criticize the past actions of the Roman Catholic Church nor the bitter ravings of the founder of Lutheranism (to whom all Protestants otherwise owe a great deal of gratitude for his willingness to stand up for and teach the great doctrines of the Faith), but to show that anti-Semitism carried out in the name of Christ has been going on for a very long time. The only real basis for such radical beliefs seem to be the fact that Israel rejected Christ and, therefore, Christ must be angry toward the entire race. But is this really what Scripture teaches?
No other chapter in the Bible so resolutely refutes the practice of anti-Semitism by the Church as Romans 11, and that is why we are taking the time to look at the subject now. Far from declaring God finished with Israel, Romans 11 shows us that every single promise that God made to that nation will one day be fulfilled. God will honor His covenants with Israel because His gifts and callings are without repentance (v. 29); He doesn’t change His mind. This is something very important for the Christian to see because, if God is willing to renege on His promises to Israel, how can we be certain of the promises He has made to us? Fortunately, God never fails to honor His promises.
Modern Hostility Toward The Jews
“But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people:” (1 Kings 9:6-7)
Shortly after Solomon dedicated the Temple to God, the Lord appeared to him for a second time. During this appearance, God warned him what would happen if Israel rejected Him. They would ultimately be driven out of the land and taken into captivity, their Temple profaned and destroyed. In 587 B.C., the first Temple built by Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians. When the armies of Rome under the command of Titus sacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the second, rebuilt Temple was defiled and destroyed. At that time, the Jews were driven out of the land again not to return for nearly 1,900 years. Even now, the re-founding of the nation in 1948 is only a partial return of the people to that land.
During their exile out of the land of Palestine, the prophecies were literally fulfilled as the Jew became a “proverb” and “byword” among the people. The Jew has been persecuted and despised by Gentiles clear up to today. It seemed that anti-Semitism became unpopular and less tolerated after the horrific events of World War II, when it was realized how far a burning hatred toward a particular race could be carried out. It was hoped by many that the terrible cruelty meted out by the Nazi regime under Hitler toward the Jews would be enough to prevent such atrocities in future generations. Yet today a new generation is repeating many of the sentiments of their forefathers, the passage of time erasing the memory of the sins of the past. Even 20 years ago, anti-Semitic leanings would have not been tolerated in most Christian churches but, today, with an ignorance of both the Bible and world history, many young people calling themselves “Christians” have adopted the hostile viewpoints of the past, believing that a sympathy for the blatant terrorists who attack innocent Israelis is the “politically correct” stand to take.
Has The Church Replaced Israel?
Some theologians have taught a doctrine which states that the Church, the Body of Christ, has replaced Israel in the plan of God and that all covenants and promises have been subsequently transferred to believers in Christ. Although members of the Body of Christ are spiritual heirs of Abraham, because he is the father of all who possess a genuine faith in God (Galatians 3:29), Gentile Christians have not taken the place of the Hebrew people. Not only is there absolutely no Scriptural support to be found for such a notion, there are a multitude of Bible passages in both Testaments which simply cannot be made to fit into the “Replacement” viewpoint. Take for instance Jeremiah 23:3-4:
“And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord.”
Is this talking about Israel or the Church? Has the Church been driven into various nations, or has Israel? Has this passage already been fulfilled? No. Israel certainly does not “fear no more” or prosper without lacking. This hasn’t been fulfilled yet. Let’s consider the next two verses:
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)
The language makes it abundantly clear that this is a promise made to Israel, not the Church. “I will raise unto DAVID a righteous Branch (Christ)”, “In His days JUDAH shall be saved, and ISRAEL shall dwell in safety.” There is just no way to fit passages like this into a Replacement Theology worldview. Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Church, but He is not yet executing judgment and justice on the earth. And this is but one example among many. If we accept that when the Bible says Israel it means Israel, then the entirety of Scripture flows together seamlessly without contradiction or inconsistency. As soon as we try to suggest that someone else is actually meant when Israel is mentioned, then we have a multitude of problems trying to force the Word of God into the mold of our own preconceptions.
God told Abraham:
“And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:6-8)
The word everlasting appears twice in this passage. Both the Covenant and the possession of the land were given to Abraham and his descendants eternally. As we saw earlier in God’s words to Solomon, Israel’s occupancy of the land is conditional on their fidelity to the Lord. But that land is theirs eternally, regardless of the mandates, injunctions, directives, or suggestions of any other power on earth. God has given Israel the land and no man has the prerogative to overrule that.
As prophesied in the passage from Jeremiah that we just looked at, a remnant of Israel will one day be regathered into that land over which the Lord Jesus Himself shall rule (see also Revelation 20:4-6, Zech. 12:7-10, and Ezekiel 39:25-29). The current populating of Israel by Jewish inhabitants and a Jewish government in power is in no way a fulfillment of these prophecies because they have not turned to God in this hour neither is Christ ruling over them and the whole earth. The fulfillment still lies in a future time.
God’s First People
“Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.” (Acts 15:14-17)
Israel, as a nation, rejected their promised Messiah at His first coming and have consequently been temporarily set aside that God might take out of the Gentiles a people for His name. As the Apostle Paul has shown us in Romans 11, He is also taking out a remnant from among Israel to join with these Gentile believers in order to form the Body of Christ, the Church. As Christians, we should not necessarily show special deference to Jews, for they are only human as we are and, like everyone else, are in need of a Savior. But neither should Christians treat Jewish non-believers with contempt or scorn. They are to be treated as anyone else and should be witnessed to of the love of Christ, just as we would any other non-Christian person. However, we should regard Israel as a whole with a reverence and respect because they definitely hold a special place in the heart of God. If we love the Lord, then we will love those whom He loves. The current government of Israel is not infallible or incapable of making mistakes or committing sin. But those who claim to love the Lord and yet side with Israel’s enemies are standing against a people whom God dearly loves and has promised to one day fully defend. God will someday destroy the enemies of Israel; how sad it will be when many of those destroyed will claim to be servants of the Lord!
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” (Psalm 122:6)
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
“I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” (Romans 11:1)
As we enter the final chapter in Romans focused on the nation of Israel and the Jewish people, we are brought to matters concerning Israel’s future. Chapter 9 explored Israel’s past, Chapter 10 explored its present (at the time of the writing), and now we see what lies ahead in God’s plan for the nation. Chapter 11 is really the pinnacle of the entire Bible concerning God’s dealings with Israel and the Jewish people because it addresses the status of both the nation of Israel as a whole as well as the individual Jew in light of the rejection of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, by the Hebrews. For not only did the Sanhedrin, acting on behalf of the Jewish people, reject the Lord Jesus by condemning Him to die (Matt. 26:66); not only did the High Priest, Caiaphas, act on behalf of his countrymen when he labeled the Lord a blasphemer and called for His sentencing (Matt. 26:65); but the people themselves present that day pleaded for Barabbas to be released in Christ’s stead, swearing to Pilate that His blood would be upon them and their children (Matt. 27:25).
All of these circumstances could make one wonder if any member of the nation of Israel had any hope of Redemption after such a complete and thorough denunciation of the promised Savior. Yet the Spirit of the Lord declares through the Apostle’s words that God has not cast “His people” away. Israel had rejected their Savior, but He had not rejected them. The Apostle Paul points out here in the very first verse of Romans 11 that he himself is a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin and God has received him. Part of the people whom God foreknew, the elect in Christ, are Jewish. Though the nation itself stood under judgment, any individual Israelite possessed the very same ability as the Gentiles to come to Jesus Christ in faith and be saved on that basis.
The Jewish Remnant
“God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (Romans 11:2-5)
Throughout the history of the nation of Israel, there was always a remnant who remained loyal to God even during the darkest hours of rebellion. When the people rejected God throughout the Old Testament, there were always a few who remained faithful to the Lord. The example is given here of the 7,000 in Elijah’s time who had refrained from worshipping Baal (cf. 1 Kings 19:10-18). Such a remnant of Jewish believers would exist throughout the Church Age; Hebrew Christians who would accept Christ as Savior and would serve Him. These Israelite Christians would comprise the true, or spiritual Israelites whom Paul described back in Romans 9:6.
Two Interesting Verses
I have spent a great deal of time in the past weeks looking at Romans 9 and 10. In my opinion, the section of Romans concerning Israel is all too often either skipped entirely or skimmed over very quickly by many Bible commentators. It is undoubtedly a fascinating passage of the Bible which teaches us a great deal about the unchangeable God we serve Who fulfills all of His promises according to His own plans and purposes. Even so, as a gentleman pointed out to me in an e-mail a few weeks ago that I seemed to be “stuck in Romans 10”, I am eager to move on into the final division of Romans, starting with Chapter 12. In that section we will examine the more practical advice and directions given to the Christian, instructions which are directly applicable to our daily lives. Therefore, next time, Lord willing, we will conclude this chapter and section of Romans with a final look at God’s ongoing and future dealings with the nation of Israel. For now, I would like to conclude this post by looking at two doctrinal concepts relating directly to Salvation which are referenced within the chapter.
Grace Or Works
“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)
Perhaps no other single verse in the Bible shows the utter absurdity of mixing grace with works to obtain Salvation. Many people are ready to accept that God’s grace factors into Salvation, but they simply cannot fathom that it is entirely the grace of God which saves and the works of man play absolutely no part in it. They will not let go of the idea that God must require something from them, some deed or work of righteousness, in order to be accepted by Him. The Book of Mormon reflects this innate notion that we must offer up at least some works for Salvation (even though it is conceded that God’s grace is the primary factor):
“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, AFTER ALL WE CAN DO.” (2 Nephi 25:23, Book of Mormon, emphasis added)
The distinction might not seem like much, but that little phrase, “after all we can do” means that grace is no more grace. Romans 11:6 shows us emphatically that grace is grace and works are works and never the twain shall meet. Once you add even a little bit of righteous deeds into the picture then you have introduced works into the formula and it is no longer God’s grace which saves.
We Stand By Faith
“Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.” (Romans 11:20-21)
When it comes to the subject of the Eternal Security of the believer, I believe that the Bible far more readily supports the conclusions of Calvin than it does Arminius. Verses such as the one we just looked at, among countless others, make it abundantly clear that God’s grace saves sinners and God’s grace upholds saved sinners. It is not works which save us initially nor is it works which keep us saved. Nevertheless, concepts like “irresistible grace” do not seem to find much support in the Bible either. That anyone will be dragged, kicking and screaming, through the gates of Heaven is not a lesson taught by Scripture. We are given the ability to choose whether or not we will come to Christ, whether or not we will answer His call to Salvation. And we are also given the choice of whether or not we will continue in Him.
We do not need to maintain our Salvation by works, nor do we need to fear that we will inadvertently sin our way out of God’s hand. We are very secure in His grace. Yet we are told that it is by faith that we stand. We enter into relationship with Jesus Christ by trusting Him and we continue in that relationship, how? By continuing to trust in Him. This is not to say that we are immediately lost if we have questions or moments of doubt. But I think that this does imply that it is possible for a person to cast aside their faith and stop trusting in the Lord. Is this something that is likely to happen? No. Is this something that can accidentally happen? Certainly not. It is a decision, a choice which someone makes.
This verse in Romans 11 cautions against being “high-minded”, that is, arrogant and prideful — the very sins of Satan which separated him from God. We are admonished to fear, to put ourselves under subjection to the Lord. Satan did not turn from God because he simply found it too difficult to continue to trust Him; he actively rebelled against God and chose to turn away from Him.
That Paul is talking to genuine Christians in this passage is confirmed by his language. He refers to branches grafted into (v. 17, 19) the olive tree. These branches are upheld by the Root and are partakers of the “fatness”, or blessings, of the Root (v. 17). Yet the warning is that these “grafted in” branches might not be spared if they allow pride and arrogance to destroy their pure faith (v. 21).
It is with great caution that I speak at all about any genuine believer turning away from God and “forfeiting” their Salvation. The entire testimony of the Word of God verifies that, so long as a person wants to be saved and comes to Jesus, then God will save them. As the Lord Jesus said,
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37)
The Lord is not turning anyone away from Him. But neither is He forcing anyone to come to Him or to stay once they have. The choice remains ours as to whether or not we will abide in Him. We stand by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But surely we will fall if we cast that faith aside.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,