Israel, the fact that it exists as a nation is miraculous proof of God's reliability in keeping his word. Think about it. Where are the Assyrians? Where are the Perizzites and the Jebusites and the Amalekites and all the other mosquito bites? Where are they now? They're gone.
They're gone. Why has Israel survived deportation and genocide and persecution and wars and destruction? Because God said they would. In the book of Genesis, God chose a man named Abraham and from him made a new nation. We call that nation Israel and the citizens of that nation the Jews. They were God's chosen people. But is that still the case? Has God replaced the Jewish people with another group as his chosen people?
We're going to explore these questions in a series entitled The Future of Israel. Today, Stephen begins this series with a lesson he's called Castaway Nation. Frederick the Great was the king of Prussia, a land which is now modern day Germany and Poland. Frederick ruled from 1740 to 1786. He was heavily influenced by Voltaire, the French philosopher and atheist. And as a result, King Frederick became skeptical of Christianity and the Bible. On one occasion, history records, he asked his court chaplain this, if your Bible is really true, it ought to be capable of easy proof. If it is indeed from God, you should be able to demonstrate the facts simply without complicated arguments. Give me proof for the inspiration of the Bible in one word, one word to prove the reliability of the Bible.
Tough question. One word. What would you think of the word Christ? Love, guilt, conscience. After a moment or two of thought, the chaplain thought of one word that all the world could see as remarkable proof that God keeps his word. He is reliable.
Your majesty, he replied, I can give you the proof you ask for in one word. Amazed, the king asked, what is this magic word that carries such a weight of proof to which the chaplain answered, Israel? Not exactly the word that came to my mind as I read this story.
Did he come to yours? Anybody? We're unanimous. We all didn't think of this word. Israel, the proof of the reliability of scripture and the author of scripture.
Think about it. What nation has lasted more than 4,000 years? We know when the nation began, by whom and why we have detailed written records of their ancient and modern history, their language remains the same, her religion, her traditions, her homeland, and her bloodline. They still follow the original documentation that outlined their faith, the Torah, the Old Testament law. Surely for a nation to exist, you would think that the world would have to coddle them and protect them and they would have to have an easy path or road, right?
That's what makes their survival even more miraculous proof of the reliability of God. No nation has been so robbed, so deported, so murdered, so hated as Israel. Every day on the news and every day you pick up the newspaper it talks about what nation, what nation? Israel.
But even without the modern AD developments, the king of Prussia had to agree and it silenced him. Israel, the fact that it exists as a nation is miraculous proof of God's reliability in keeping his word. Think about it. Where are the Assyrians? Where are the Perizzites and the Jebusites and the Amalekites and all the other mosquito bites? Where are they now? They're gone.
They're gone. Why has Israel survived deportation and genocide and persecution and wars and destruction because God said they would? He is reliable and his word is a reliable word. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God said, only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out, will I reject the nation Israel. In other words, until the universe is mapped and the center of the earth explored, Israel survives. And every time you pick up that newspaper or turn on the television, you have one more marvelous illustration that these people just don't die.
This nation, do whatever you want, somehow it survives. And we haven't seen anything yet as to what God has in mind. Now it doesn't mean that everything Israel does is right.
In fact, I believe they are presently set aside under the discipline of God throughout this church age. But until the universe is mapped and the core of the earth explored, Israel will prove over and over again the reliability of God and the reliability of the word of God. But just one little word, something has happened and they have gone too far, have they not? They called for the death of not just one of the prophets, but the prophet. They didn't just reject any messenger, they rejected the Messiah.
That would do it, wouldn't it? Surely God has had it up to here with them. He's through with irreconcilable Israel.
That seems to be the way Paul is leaning. We come to the end of chapter 10, look there, verse 21. But as for Israel, he says, all the day long, I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and an obstinate people.
The question on everybody's mind would be this one. Since Israel has rejected the Messiah, surely God is finished with Israel. And that's the question that opens our study in Romans chapter 11, verse 1. But I say then, God has not rejected his people. God has not rejected his people.
I know you're thinking that, has he? Does the nation as an elect people, its blessings and covenants simply just go away? Do they get sort of a spiritual makeover and they get applied to the church in some spiritualized fashion? Is there to be no literal throne in Jerusalem? Is there no return to the homeland that the prophet spoke of? Are all of these things which are part of the covenant promises to Israel, will they not literally occur?
Are they now just sort of spiritually vaporized in the existence and development of the church? One author writes, contrary to what some sincere Christians maintain, God cannot be finished with the nation of Israel for the obvious reason that all of his promises to her have not yet been fulfilled. If God were through with his chosen nation, his word would be false, his integrity discredited. Among those who most strongly insist that God is through with the nation of Israel are those whose theology, as some of you may know, is commonly referred to as covenant theology, which this author says is ironic because they cannot escape the implication that God is unfaithful and fully honoring his covenants.
In other words, they're called covenant theologians, which is ironic because their interpretation of scripture views God as choosing not to fulfill his covenants. Listen to what God said through David about him literally fulfilling at least these particular covenants he mentions. He says, my covenant, I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of my lips. Once I have sworn by my holiness, I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endure forever. His throne is the sun before me.
It shall be established forever. Covenant theology teaches that Israel is sort of morphed into the church, sort of just one and the same continuation, that circumcision is just sort of spiritualized into water baptism, that the old covenant feasts are sort of spiritualized into the Lord's supper or table. Are there similarities? Yes. Are they covenant replacements?
No. Romans chapter 11 should forever turn anyone away from the presumption of those who would teach that God is through with national Israel, that there is no future for them as a nation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ladies and gentlemen, God cannot keep only some of his promises. God cannot be partially reliable. The truth is most everything in our lives are not entirely reliable from your computer to your washing machine, to your car, to your job, to your relationships. We're surrounded by unreliable things and unreliable promises. But not God, right?
What proof do we have that God's word is reliable? Israel. Listen, if God changes his mind and backs away from his promise regarding Israel's homeland, maybe he'll change his mind about your heaven.
Is this a significant question or what? And I love Paul's answer. Is God through? May it never be. That's impossible.
It'll never happen. Now, Paul goes on then to give two evidences that Israel is not a castaway nation. The first piece of evidence is found in Paul's personal testimony. Paul says here, God hasn't cast Israel aside.
Look at me. He chose me. Look at the middle part of verse 1. For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. In other words, if God decided to get rid of the Israelite, Paul is implying, after they rejected the Messiah, why would God choose an Israelite to be an apostle? In fact, why would God choose Jews to promote the church? Why would God use Jews to hold significant positions throughout the course of even this dispensation?
Why not start with just all Gentiles and work with just Gentiles? Paul says, I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. First, he says, I too am an Israelite. It's interesting he doesn't say I'm a Jew or a Hebrew.
There are three names used for this people. Hebrew from Eber, probably from Eber in Genesis chapter 10 verse 21, the term Jew, a derivative of Judah, most significant prominent of the 12 tribes, and Israelite. That name was taken from Father Jacob who was renamed Israel after his night of wrestling.
Remember? This is the covenant name of the people. It signifies their unique relationship with a covenant-keeping God. Did you notice, by the way, Paul did not say God chose me and I am no longer an Israelite.
He said, listen, God has rejected the nation. He chose me and I'm an Israelite. I am and he chooses the covenant name.
I am an Israelite, the name given by a covenant-keeping God to his covenant people. But notice further in the verse, Paul says, I am also a descendant of Abraham. Abraham was the father of the covenant people, the one to whom God originally gave the covenant. Even further, Paul writes, I am of the tribe of Benjamin. He's a direct descendant of the son of Jacob, Benjamin.
It's interesting that Benjamin was the only son born in the land of promise. It's as if Paul is reminding his leaders, listen, there isn't anybody more connected to the covenant than me. I was born into the covenant family. I'm an Israelite. I am related to the covenant founder. I'm a son of Abraham. My descendants were born in the land of covenant promise.
I'm from the tribe of Benjamin. This is Paul's personal testimony. It's as if he says, you can't get any more Jewish than me. And God chose me. He evidently is not finished with Israelites. And he chose me by his grace, as he will say in a moment. Now, Paul delivers another piece of evidence that God has not cast away the nation. This is the evidence not only of a personal testimony, but now secondly the evidence of a past trial. Remember, Paul writes in verse two, what the scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel.
Notice that word against. That is, Elijah is pleading against Israel. And Paul lets us in on his prayer. Look at verse three, Lord, they have killed thy prophets. They have torn down thine altars and I alone am left and they are seeking my life. I wish we had time to just dive back into this text, but we don't.
But let me at least remind you of some of this. Can you just hear, by the way, in this prayer, the pain in his voice, the frustration and the weariness that I believe went all the way down to his bones? He's 90 miles from nowhere. He's in the wilderness. He's depressed. He's defeated.
He's afraid. Yes, he's just come from Mount Carmel, where the fire of God fell from heaven and consumed his offering. You remember that?
Couldn't you just live off of that for at least a month or two? You pray that God will send fire and whoosh, fire comes. I remember one time in college I got into my car. I was in the middle of winter. I turned the ignition.
It wouldn't start. Got out, lifted the hood. Looked like everything was there. I put my hands on the battery.
Looked both ways. I was a ministerial student, and I prayed, Lord, I think this is the problem. Heal it. Got back in the car, turned the ignition, and guess what? It didn't start. Elijah prays, bring fire. I pray.
I can't even get a spark in the battery. My miracle story. Yes, rain has fallen after three years, but no national revival, just rebellion. And if Jezebel doesn't meet him at the palace and say, Elijah, I'm so sorry about all those false prophets and Baal I kept on my payroll. I was wrong. I want you to forgive me.
I've asked God to forgive me. I want you to start a Bible study in the palace and lead us through the Torah. No, she puts a contract out on his head and tells him you've got 24 hours to live.
Tomorrow night you're going to be dead. Elijah runs. And now Paul brings us to that scene here where he's alone, afraid, discouraged. And he says, in effect, Lord, I'm tired of Israel. I'm tired of this nation, this people and the rebellion and their idolatry and their unbelief. And I'm the only one left that believes in you, Lord. Want to just start over. Start a new nation. In fact, Elijah says, take my life to just start clean.
You'll never make anything of this people. Paul goes on to say in verse four. And what was the divine response to him?
Do you remember it? I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Elijah, you can't see it.
You think circumstances abound to prove that I'm through. But there are seven thousand men and not to mention their wives, their children who have not bowed their knee to Baal. You have no idea, Elijah, what I have kept. Key phrase, what I have preserved for myself, I have kept a remnant of this people. I will keep my word.
This nation will survive. Now, Paul ties up all of the evidence that he has given with a summary statement. Look at verse five. In the same way, then there has also come to be at the present time, a remnant according to God's gracious choice. In other words, it was true then. It's true now, for if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works. Otherwise, grace is no longer grace.
He loved that truth. We've studied through this book now for a few months, right? In Romans chapter one, let me remind you, it's been a while. He wrote through him and for his name's sake, we received grace.
You could just do a word study through your Bible in this book. In chapter three, he says, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but we are justified freely by his grace. Chapter five, verse one, therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, having obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand. I love that verse in chapter five, verse 20, where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, and on and on and on. This is all a matter of God's grace. Israel was chosen and Israel is preserved by the grace of God. Elijah was encouraged and recommissioned by the grace of God. The believer today is still being saved, not by works, but by the grace of God.
It is unmerited favor. Now, we're gonna stop our study here, but I want to give you some points of application first, and I want to bring it into this 21st century for the believers, especially the majority of believers who are probably Gentiles. But both Jew and Gentile believers, what could we take from this in a very practical way?
Let me give you three things. Number one, don't ever underestimate the power of your personal testimony. You know, what I find fascinating is that Paul could have said a lot of things to prove the reliability of God. He could have said a lot of things.
He could have dealt with a lot of issues. And yet as he begins to deliver the evidence, he uses his own testimony as evidence of the grace of God. And I encourage you, don't be ashamed to do the same. You don't have to know all of the answers as you share your faith.
You know the answer and he has intercepted your life. Tell people that. Don't ever think it's a sign of ignorance to share your testimony with anyone. If the brilliant apostle Paul could do it over and over and over again in his letters, so can you and so can I.
Start with that. Don't ever underestimate the power of your personal testimony. Secondly, don't ever underestimate the insight from your past trials. Like Elijah, we determine whether or not God is working based on what we can see rather than what God has said. We tend to let our experience cloud God's promise. And Elijah's problem began when he focused more on the word of Jezebel than the word of Jehovah.
Are you in the middle of a difficult situation right now? My advice to you would be, remember the last one. What did God show you then? What did God reveal to you about himself then?
Maybe he took you through that to help you through this now. Write it down. Keep it handy.
We have poor memories, all of us. Be like David who kept Goliath's armor, I think, just so he could walk back and forth in that room every once in a while when he was feeling a little discouraged that maybe God wasn't quite big enough for his day. Don't ever forget the insight God provides from past trials.
Third, one more final reminder. Don't ever underestimate the power of God's grace. You know, if anybody was beyond the reach of the grace of God, it would be Israel. Did they deserve it? No. Did Paul, the hunter of Christians, deserve grace? No. Was he even pursuing Christ? No. Was he searching for the truth? No. He wanted to kill Christians. And God intercepted his life. Do you or I deserve the light of God's grace?
No. None of us deserve it, but that's Paul's point there in verse 6. If we deserved it, grace would not be what?
It would not be grace. Grace is undeserved favor. That means God gives it to people who are undeserving. We often think, oh, if I just be a little more deserving, God would give me more grace. We're missing it.
He gives it to undeserving people like you and me. I want to tell you a story and then we're going to wrap it up. About a mother I read just this past week in a new book I got.
Got started a little bit into it and came across this story. She knew her son would have a hard life following in his perhaps father's pagan footsteps. She had only begun to live for the Lord in the last five or six years. She was weak and sickly and frail but a believer. She depended on the grace of God and she knew her son would need the grace of God as well. And so she spent time teaching him at her knee Bible verses which she had him memorize and hymns which she had him learn to sing. She prayed that God would save her son.
She didn't see the fruit of that prayer. She died when Johnny was only seven years old. He was sent to a boarding school and he ran away from it a number of times and finally was old enough to run away and he lied about his age and he joined the Navy. He ran as far away from his mother's God and his mother's Bible and his mother's hymnal as he could. He eventually ran away from the Navy and into a life of deep sin. On one night he recorded in his testimony.
It was October 9th 1748. He was jolted awake by a brutal storm that had swept upon their vessel so quickly that they had been unable to prepare for it and all night and into the following day he was convinced they were all going to die and there at the end of his rope he came to the end of himself and remembered his mother and her tears and prayer and hymns she taught him and the verses of Christ's death and resurrection on his behalf and he cried out to be saved not so much from physical death but everlasting death. He eventually prepared for ministry and he became well known throughout his homeland of Great Britain. He also added some of his own hymns to the list and to the collection. His most famous one was entitled Faith's Review and Expectation.
Don't you like those old titles? One verse that was dropped out over time reads this. The earth shall soon dissolve like snow. The sun forbear to shine but God who called me here below shall be forever mine. In other words God will keep his word to Israel yes to you and me literally fulfilling his promises. No matter what circumstances seem to say no matter how dark and stormy your particular night is right now God will never retract from you the promises of his covenant of grace. That hymn I mentioned has become perhaps the most well known hymn in the entire Christian world. Its title Faith's Review and Expectation was later changed to fit the theme of each stanza and a new title a shorter one was given. The title is Amazing Grace. John Newton considered it his personal testimony and so did the Apostle Paul before him.
So does every believer after him. The theme of our lives is that we are undeserving and God should walk away and he should start over again but he starts over with us again and again and again. The theme of our song is Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I'm found.
Was blind but now I see. As Christians we know that the story of our life can be summed up with these two words amazing grace. God's amazing grace is what defines us and what makes it possible for us to walk through life with hope. The same thing is true for the nation of Israel.
They became and remain God's chosen people simply on the basis of God's amazing grace. This is the first lesson in a six part series entitled The Future of Israel. God's dealing with Israel is important and we need to understand the future of Israel biblically.
I hope you'll be with us for this entire series. This is Wisdom for the Heart, the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. We have a gift that we're sending to everyone who makes their first contact with our ministry. Call us today so that we can send this gift out to you in the mail. Our number is 866-48-BIBLE. We'd be encouraged to know what God's doing in your life so write and tell us.
Your card or letter will reach us if you address it to Wisdom for the Heart, PO Box 37297, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27627. Thanks for joining us today. I hope you have a great weekend and I hope you'll be with us on Monday as we bring you more Wisdom for the Heart. I hope you have a great weekend.
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