God's Banner to the Nations

We see many banners in our daily lives – pictures of them in the media, evidences of them all over the world, and all shouting at us to 'get the message', that is, their own particular message. And we are living in a day when God has set up His banner, His ensign to the nations, a message that is there for all to see.

God's banner is speaking to the nations in three particular ways: Firstly He is showing us that the Bible is true and is an up-to-date Book, the Books of books. Secondly, He is demonstrating that He is a covenant-keeping God. And thirdly, His banner tells us in these days that the stage is set for the final act.

The Bible an Up-to-date Book

In Psalm 83 we have a list of nations, a line-up of peoples who "have taken crafty counsel against your people, and consulted together against your sheltered ones. They have said, 'Come and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.'" (83:3,4)

These nations so speaking against God and His people are listed – the ten of them – a line-up of nations never before confederate together as they were in 1967, and they have never been so lined up together since. And in the Six Day War of 1967 Egypt was one of them, and Nasser exhorted his fellow war-mongers with the very words quoted above: "Let us cut them off from being a nation."

In this Psalm 83, spoken three thousand years ago, the prophet Asaph predicted this event, and he prayed: "O my God, make them like the whirling dust, like the chaff before the wind! . . . Pursue them with your tempest, and frighten them with your storm. Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O LORD" (83:13,15).

What a psalm! What a prayer! What a desire! What vision! What a prophecy! And he set it in the context of a mighty work of an Almighty God who long ago had said: "Let the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spoke and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.

"The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the LORD stands for ever, the plans of his heart to all generations" (Psalm 33:8-11).

Also in that same Psalm 83 Asaph referred back to Judges chapters 4 and 8 and reminded God how He had acted for His people Israel against Midian and Sisera, against Jabin at the Brook Kishon, against Oreb and Zeeb, against Zebah and Zalmunna "who said, 'Let us take for ourselves the pastures of God for a possession'" (83:12).

God did exactly that in 1967. He acted for His people, and He repeated His judgements on their aggressive neighbours again in 1973, and of course we go back in our memories to 1948 and 1956. God's banner to the nations is clearly to be seen. Near enough isn't good enough for God. His words spoken three thousand years ago and in such detail are the ground for our faith as we see Him fulfil all that He has spoken.

In fact, in all these recent wars "'if it had not been the LORD who was on our side,' let Israel now say – 'if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us'" (Psalm 124:1-3).

God a Covenant-keeping God

In Genesis chapter 15 we read a reiteration of the earlier promises God had made and the covenant He had established with His servant Abraham and his descendants after him. We read that God walked with Abraham and ratified the covenant, saying:

"To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates" (15:18), and the same was repeated to his son Isaac and to his son Jacob: "The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land" (Genesis 35:12).

It was an unconditional covenant and was spoken of in detail in Psalm 105:8-11: "He has remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded for a thousand generations, the covenant which he made with Abraham, and his oath to Isaac, and confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel for an everlasting covenant, saying, 'To you I give the land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance.'"

This is our God's banner to the nations. In these days Israel has been reborn, the people have returned to build up the Land, and all because God is a covenant-keeping God. The whole world has seen it – a miracle in our times. The nations by and large will not see, they will not listen, but the banner is there for all that, the evidence that God keeps His promises.

The State is Set for the Last Act

God has displayed His banner to the nations in that He has now set the stage for the last act as it were. We turn to the words of the Messiah as recorded in the New Testament by Luke in chapter 21, where firstly the Lord foretold the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 A.D.

Then He went on to tell His followers what signs would herald the end of the age and His coming again. Many of these signs have now been fulfilled – written large on God's banner for all to see. The people of Israel who have been scattered into many nations for nineteen centuries and have suffered great distress just as predicted: "For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations" are now a state again in their own land. And the Messiah said further: "And Jerusalem shall be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (21:24).

So now since June 1967 when Jerusalem was released from the overlordship of Gentile powers so miraculously and unexpectedly, to become a united city under Israel, and when in 1980 it was decided by the Knesset that Jerusalem was to be henceforth the eternal and indivisible capital of the State of Israel, this prophecy by Jesus has come into focus like a beacon.

The Lord went on to say: "And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations with perplexity (the word in the Greek meaning no way out, no settlement, no way through) . . . men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken."

All these conditions and events are God's banner to the nations; they are familiar already to us, and scary; they will grow worse and not better as we come closer to the time when "they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."

However, the Lord exhorted us to "watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." It's over to us. God's signs on His banner are for our attention, and we may disregard them if we dare.

He has been faithful to warn of future events; He has set the stage; He will surely fulfil all that He has promised, both to Israel and to all nations. His precious Word is the guide book where we may discover all His heart, all His purposes, and how we may be assured of our standing before Him on that day.