Israel And The Nations

by Keith Macnaughtan

The division of mankind into nations, each with its own territory and tongue, its own characteristics and habits, has existed for thousands of years. Perhaps it is hard for us to imagine a time when this division did not obtain, but we have every reason for accepting the Bible teaching that there was such a time. Whatever may have been the condition of the human race prior to the Deluge, we learn from Genesis 10:32, "By these" -- that is, by the sons of Noah -- "were the nations divided after the flood."

At this time there was no Jewish or Israel nation. No Law had yet been given on Mount Sinai. The birth of Abraham, Israel's great ancestor and patriarch, was an event some hundreds of years in the future.

But, as the ages slowly passed, God's purposes gradually unfolded. At first He set aside, out of all the nations, just that one man, Abraham. Approximately another four hundred years must pass before his descendants, now an Israelite nation, were redeemed from their bondage in Egypt and, having come to Mount Sinai, received there the Law of the Lord.

Another Dispensation

Thus another dispensation in God's dealings with man began. Previously, man had been under the guidance of his God-given conscience and of an occasional precept, such as that relating to sacrifice. But with the deliverance of Israel and their receiving the Law, God began to deal with them, and through them, with other nations.

As part of that plan, Israel was chosen to destroy idolatry. Many people, when they read of the utter destruction which Israel was to bring upon the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites and other races referred to in the Bible, cannot believe that such commands could have been given by a God of mercy.

Is He not, they ask, the God who loves all men? Are they not all His creatures? How then can He order the wholesale destruction of such peoples? But let them think a little more deeply on this subject and they will begin to understand God's reasoning in this regard.

True, all men are His creatures, but some "exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator." They "refused to have God in their knowledge." And again, "When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their reasonings and their senseless heart was darkened." They "changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man …" (Romans 1:25,28,21,23).

That God in mercy bore long with such evil can be seen in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. Indeed, God actually kept the Israelites out of their inheritance in Canaan until "the iniquity of the Amorites" became "full" , and then He could no longer forbear.

The Evil Effects of Intermarriage

Again we see the wisdom of the Almighty in ordering the utter destruction of the people whose land Israel was to inhabit in that, were they allowed to remain, they would certainly lead the Israelites into their own debased idol worship. Moses said, " ... thou shalt utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them; NEITHER SHALT THOU MAKE MARRIAGES WITH THEM ... for they will turn away thy son from following Me, that they may serve other gods ..." (Deuteronomy 7:2,3)

Thus Israel would be turned from the only true God, blessed be His Name, to the service of other gods, which are, in reality, demons (as we learn from the New Testament). And Israel would lose their separated character as the people of God.

Alas, Israel's later sad and bitter history is itself a vindication of the Divine commands for the utter extermination of their evil and idolatrous neighbours. The woes of which later history speaks came on Israel because of their turning aside after the false gods and idol worship of the surrounding nations.

God's Purposes Not Frustrated

But Israel's comparative failure did not take God by surprise nor frustrate His purposes. His inspired prophets (all of whom, incidentally, were Hebrews), clearly foretold the coming of One who, having purchased salvation for both Jews and Gentiles by His own death as a sacrifice for sins, would "gather together in one all the children of God that were scattered abroad" (John 11:51,52)

He is the Messiah, the Holy One of God, whom God raised from the dead. Why should such an event be thought impossible? Did not God create Adam, our first parent, merely from the dust of the earth? Does not the Psalmist tell us, in prophecy, "Thou wilt not abandon My soul to the nether-world; neither wilt thou suffer thy godly One to see the pit" (16:10 Jewish Publication Society), or "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (sheol); neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (K.J.V.) According to the Hebrew Scriptures, the resurrection of the dead is certainly not a new thought.

Messiah and His Righteous Reign

And it is through that same person that God will ultimately bring to fruition His age-old purposes of grace for both Israel and the other nations. Again and again the prophets have foretold the coming of the One who is to be Israel's king and whose righteous reign will extend over all nations.

Did not Isaiah write of Him who would be a "shoot out of the stock of Jesse" and that to this root of Jesse would the nations seek? For He will "assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth", when He also "will set up an ensign for the nations" (11:1,10,12)

We need to read again the blessed promises of Isaiah 60: "For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but upon THEE the Lord will arise, and His glory shall be seen upon THEE. And NATIONS shall walk at thy light, and kings at the brightness of thy rising ..." Yes, "ALL FLESH" is yet to "come to worship before Me, saith the LORD" (66:23).