What's Your Problem? Nov 1979

by Joseph Hunting

Q. "If we Jews are God's Chosen People, where is the evidence of His blessing during the past 2,000 years?"

A. Israel as a nation has ever been, and ever will be a nation under covenant relationship with God. This everlasting covenant was made with Abraham and has never been repealed, annulled or modified in any way. On the other hand the Lord promised: "Now therefore, if you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people, for all the earth is Mine." (Exodus 19:5).

For Israel to be the Lord's peculiar treasure above all people there is the condition, "IF you will obey My voice indeed, AND KEEP MY COVENANT ..." Obviously the Lord has removed His blessings, but has NOT annulled the Abrahamic covenant.

The enquiring thoughtful reader should read the passage of Scripture which sets forth the conditions God required for Israel to know either blessing or cursing in both individual and national life. This passage is found in Deuteronomy chapters 27 and 28.

Q. "Can you throw light on the two sticks referred to in Ezekiel chapter 37 verses 16-22?"

A. The Bible makes it clear that one stick represents the tribe of Judah and the children of Israel his companions. Evidently there were some of the northern tribes who had allied themselves with Judah at that time. The other stick represents Joseph and the house of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions. In Bible times the ten northern tribes, whose capital was Samaria, were sometimes referred to as Ephraim. Thus, the two sticks represent Judah with a few adherents from the northern tribes, and the northern ten tribes referred to as Ephraim.

Ezekiel was told to "join them one to another into one stock: and they shall become one in thine hand." (verse 17). This action symbolized a future return to the land when all twelve tribes would be represented. "Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen (nations), whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel ..." (verses 21-22ff.)

In the process of time the ten northern tribes were scattered and dispersed as chaff before a mighty wind. Many were assimilated into the nations whither they wandered, but the mainstream eventually settled in Russia, Eastern Europe, Germany and France. These, in time, became known as the Ashkenazic Jews. On the other hand the tribe of Judah generally remained round the Mediterranean basin. Again, some were assimilated, but the mainstream settled in Morocco, Spain, Egypt, Palestine and some as far away as Yemen. In the main, these were called the Sephardic Jews.

For the first time in Israel's long and chequered history both Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews, representing all twelve tribes, have returned en masse to their ancient homeland which, on May 14th, 1948, was called "Medinat Yisrael" -- The State of Israel.

It is important to note that there is more of this prophecy yet to be fulfilled. The rest of the chapter describes the future restoration of Israel and blessing in the Messianic era.


A. Before I answer this question the two main constituents need to be explained. Firstly, what is meant by the Church? It is NOT the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England, the Baptist Church, Uniting Church or any other of the numerous titles that together make up the sum of what is popularly known as 'The Church'. Nor does it mean 'Christianity' per se. The true Church is made up of individuals, whether Jew or Gentile, who believe in the atoning death of Messiah for their sin according to the Scriptures.

Secondly, the Time of Jacob's Trouble, also known as the Great Tribulation, will encompass the last seven years of this age. According to the Scriptures this will be a period of unprecedented distress and suffering. Daniel describes it thus: "And at that time ... there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time." (Chapter 12:1). The New Testament also describes it in graphic terms: "For then shall be great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened there should no flesh be saved." (Matthew 24:21,22ff.)

The question that is exercising many believers today is whether or not they will be required to undergo the suffering and extreme distress during the Great Tribulation. I believe that the Scripture does provide us with an answer.

From the beginning believers in Messiah (first called 'Christians' in Antioch as an epithet) have undergone severe persecution even unto death. Saul of Tarsus is on record as consenting to the death of Stephen, and later "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the High Priest and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem." (Acts 9:1,2). Nero fed Christians to the lions. The assembly of believers in Smyrna during the first century underwent severe tribulation and throughout the centuries to the present time there have been many who have been martyred and imprisoned for their faith as the result of satanic persecution.

On the other hand Scriptures in both Tenach and New Testament make it clear that the Time of Jacob's Trouble, or Great Tribulation, is "The Day of the Lord", a time when the wrath of an outraged and angry God will be poured out upon a rebellious and corrupt world. Revelation chapters 15 and 16 describe in detail the frightful conditions on earth when the seven vials of God's wrath are poured out upon mankind.

A reference to Sodom in both Tenach and New Testament throws light on the question. "Except the Lord of hosts had left us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom ..." and " ... the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all." (Isaiah 1:9 and Luke 17:29).

We now turn to the book of Genesis for the account of Sodom's destruction and the dialogue between Abraham and the Lord when the Patriarch interceded on behalf of Lot. "And Abraham drew near and said, Wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt Thou also destroy and spare not the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from Thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from Thee. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (18:23-25).

It is very important that we ponder deeply both Abraham's searching question and the Lord's reply. "And the Lord said: If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes." Abraham then reduced the number to 45, then to 40, 30, 20 when finally he said: "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure, ten shall be found there. And He said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake." (18:26-32).

The great truth revealed by Abraham's intercession on behalf of Lot is that God will not destroy the righteous with the wicked when His judgements are poured out upon mankind. It is noteworthy that Sodom's destruction was withheld until Lot and his family were safely removed.

Now we return to the Scriptures previously quoted concerning Sodom. Only a small remnant will escape the judgement when the wrath of God is poured out upon a God-rejecting and rebellious mankind. And as Lot was removed from Sodom, even so will God remove those whom He accounts righteous.