Jewish Hopes and Prospects
Chapter 2: Israel’s New Covenant
"The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? … Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years" (Mal. 3:1-5).
SIX thousand years ago in Eden our Maker, in justly sentencing His disobedient children to death, intimated that ultimately the Seed of the woman would bruise the Serpent's head (Gen. 3:15). This hidden prophecy was the first intimation of the Divine mercy which our gracious Creator had purposed in Himself from before the foundation of the world. Ever noble, kind and gracious, our Creator restrained His mercy for the good of His creatures—that they might learn to appreciate the exceeding sinfulness of sin. For the good of the angels also—that they might fully know of His justice, as well as of His wisdom and power—God insisted upon dealing with His creatures from the standpoint of exact justice. They had sinned, and thereby had forfeited all claim to the eternal life which He had offered them conditionally.
Eternal torment did not in any sense or degree enter into the Divine purpose. His sentence upon man, plainly stated, was "Dying thou shalt die," not "Living thou shalt live in torment." "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Gen. 2:17; Ezek. 18:4). God purposed to exemplify in His dealings with our race this principle of Divine government, which is to be made operative everywhere ultimately—among all His creatures on the spirit plane, as well as upon the earthly plane. Many centuries afterward, in the seventh generation of Adam's children, God spoke prophetically through one of these, Enoch, saying, "The Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all" (Jude 14, 15)—to establish righteousness among men. Time passed on, but sin prevailed, and the coming of the Great Deliverer was still future.
GOD'S PROMISE TO ABRAHAM
Later God spoke to Abraham, after first having tested his faith and loyalty. To
him He mentioned the same great Deliverer who would bruise the Serpent's head and who would come in great glory with ten thousands of His holy ones. To Abraham He gave assurance that this One would, in some way, be identified with his posterity, so that He might properly be called the Seed of Abraham. God said, "In thy Seed shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:3; 22:18). The Divine Program was not changed, but more explicit statements were given respecting it. Thereafter all taught of God would know to look for the Messianic blessing through Abraham's Seed. Besides, the Covenant was afterward confirmed with an oath to Abraham; later to Isaac; later to Jacob (Gen. 22:16-18; 26:24; 28:14). That Covenant Promise became the basis of God's adoption of the entire nation of Israel—all of Jacob's children. They were heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant. If so great an honor from the Almighty God has made some of the Jewish people to appear arrogant and proud at times, let us not forget that to err is human—to forgive, Divine. Perhaps if we were in their place our imperfections would similarly display themselves.
THE OLD LAW COVENANT
Israel's experiences of tribulation and bondage in Egypt were probably necessary to prepare them for God's great proposition—that they should keep the Law and as a reward have life everlasting (Lev. 18:5; Ezek. 20:11, 13, 21). Israel greatly rejoiced in this manifestation of Divine preference for them above all others of humanity. The Law Covenant was mediated. The atonement-day sacrifices made a typical atonement for them for a year, so that they might enter into this covenant relationship with God. But when they attempted to keep the Law they were disappointed. They failed. The Law is the full measure of a perfect man's ability; and the Israelites, being imperfect like other men, found that they had undertaken an impossibility. None of them could keep the Law perfectly.
None, therefore, gained eternal life during the first year. But, foreknowing this, God had made preparation for a repetition of the Atonement Day every year, so that the people might continue striving to attain eternal life. Year after year, century after century, they failed, and discouragement took the place of hope. God was teaching them a great lesson respecting the need of "better sacrifices" than those of bulls and of goats, and also teaching them that there is no other means of justification in His sight. They received blessings under this Covenant—educational blessings, but not the blessing hoped for, i.e., life eternal. Hence they were not in a position to become, as they had hoped, a national Messiah, a national Seed of Abraham, for the blessing of all the nations. For a time God gave them kings, but these were unable to fulfil their hopes.
Finally, the promise of a personal Messiah was made, who would be of the lineage of David, a great King, far superior to the great, wise and rich Solomon—Messiah would be David's Son and yet David's Lord (Psa. 110). Here, as God designed, Israel began to get the thought of a personal Messiah, a King of Glory, who would use their nation as His instrumentality for the conquering of the world, when every knee would bow and every tongue confess, to the glory of God.
THE NEW COVENANT PROMISED
The next lesson for Israel to learn was that a change of dispensation must come—that, as Moses had mediated the Law Covenant, so an antitypical Moses, a greater than Moses, would induct them into the blessings and privileges of a still better covenant, a covenant more favorable to them, one under which they could gain eternal life. This New Covenant was particularly set before them through Jeremiah's prophecy (31:31-34). And this, combined with the statement of Moses respecting a greater Mediator (Deut. 18:15-18), helped their faith to take a fresh hold upon the Abrahamic Promise—"In thy Seed shall all families of the earth be blessed."
If a great enough Mediator would come as the promised Messenger of God, and would establish a better covenant, under which Israel could have eternal life, and if He, as the offspring of David, would become their King, then indeed Abraham's Seed, the nation of Israel under that great Mediator-King, would be fully qualified to bless all the families of the earth. The thought of this glory to their nation became a fresh inspiration, and around it gathered the fifty-odd thousand of Jews, out of all the tribes of Israel, who returned from Babylonian captivity under Cyrus' edict.
Through the Prophet Ezekiel the Lord again made mention of the fact that their Law Covenant made at Sinai must, before their great blessing of restitution, give place to a New Covenant, a better covenant. Speaking of the time when He would regather them out of all lands and would fulfill to them the promise made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and make them a great nation, and use them for the blessing of other nations, the Lord declares, "I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake." He then tells them that at the time He would receive them back into His love and favor He would gather them out of all countries and bring them into their own land. He would also purify them, take away their stony heart, and give them a new heart, and make their desolate land like the garden of Eden (Ezek. 36:22-38).
HOPE FOR SODOMITES AND SAMARITANS
God promised also to humble their pride by restoring the Samaritans and the Sodomites—peoples whom Israel detested as inferiors and sinners. He declares that neither of these peoples had ever committed as serious sins against Divine goodness as Israel had, and that when He would again bless Israel He would bless also these other peoples in their midst. Let us quote His words: "When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate. … Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant, … and I will give them [Sodomites and Samaritans] unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant [not under the Old Law Covenant given to the twelve tribes of Israel at Sinai; but under the New Law Covenant of the future], and I will establish my covenant with thee; … [in order] that thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done" (Ezek. 16:55-63).
This new and better Covenant is to be mediated through a personal Messiah—a still more glorious Mediator than Moses, a still more glorious King than David—this One whom Israel began to look for and to long for. Can we wonder that they failed to identify Him in the lowly Nazarene who died at Golgotha? We cannot! Nothing but a special assistance of the Holy Spirit would enable anyone to trace the connection between the glorious pictures of the prophecies and the humble appearance of Him who came to fulfill those prophecies. We do see, however, that the great Messiah of Glory, Jesus, in His Second Advent as King of kings and Lord of lords, fills absolutely every demand of Jewish expectation and of prophetic outline. Some can see, but others cannot as yet, that He who was pierced (Psa. 22:16; Zech. 12:10) is the same One who, as the Son of God, in great glory is shortly to bless Israel—and the Gentiles through them.
The New Covenant that Jehovah will make with the houses of Israel and Judah "after those days," when, He says, "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jer. 31:31-34), is to be established on the basis of the atonement made by the Messiah. That the Messiah would be the great sin-bearer every devout Jew acknowledges when he recites the following passage from the Jewish prayer-book for the Day of Atonement:
[The English translation reads: "Messiah our righteousness is departed from us; horror hath seized us, and we have none to justify us. He hath borne the yoke of iniquities and our transgression and is wounded because of our transgressions. He beareth our sins on his shoulder, that he may find pardon for our iniquites, We shall be healed by his wound at the time that the Eternal will create him (The Messiah) as a new creature. Oh, bring him up from the circle of the earth, raise him up from Seir, to assemble us the second time, on Mount Lebanon, by the hand of Yinnon." Yinnon, according to the Talmud and the Midrash, is one of the name of the Messiah.]
ABIDING THE DAY OF MESSIAH'S COMING
Our text is from another prophecy speaking of this same great Messiah, the Mediator of the New Covenant, King of kings and Lord of lords, who, as the Representative of the great Jehovah, His Father, is to reign until all enemies shall be put down—until Satan shall be bound and ultimately crushed; until Adam and his race, released from the Divine sentence, under the New Covenant provisions shall be uplifted from sin, degradation and death to perfection and everlasting life—the unwilling and disobedient being destroyed in the Second Death. The Prophet Malachi points out that the Messiah of the New Covenant, whom he announces, is the glorious Mediator and antitypical King for whom they had waited so long, and of whom they delighted to think. He would come to the Temple—thus implying that He would be not only an antitypical Prophet, an antitypical King, but also an antitypical Priest—"after the order of Melchizedek" (Psa. 110:4; Zech. 6:12, 13).
But after this joyful proclamation that their long-expected and gloried-in Mediator of the New Covenant should be looked for, they were warned that His Day would be one of trial, one of special testing and proving, that the Lord might find the antitypical Priests and antitypical Levites to serve in the antitypical Temple. He would be like a refiner's fire to take away the dross and to leave only the pure metal—fiery trials and testings being implied. He would be "like fuller's soap," in the sense that a great washing would take place to make for the Kingdom the called, chosen and faithful (Mal. 3:2). Then the consecration of Judah and Jerusalem unto the Lord will be accepted as in olden times. We understand that this spirit of devotion is now reviving among the Jews; particularly among those who are identified with Jerusalem and the Zionist movement. Hitherto this has been mainly a political movement in the interest of Jewish nationalization and a home for exiles. Now, however, the due time has come for a real movement of those who have the faith to draw near to God and to show that faith by helping to forward the restoration of earthly Jerusalem and her interests, preparatory to her receiving the everlasting Covenant (Jer. 32:40; 50:5).
THE MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT
The First-begotten of the Father (Psa. 2:7), as His glorious Agent in the great work of creation, had the honor granted Him of becoming the great Messenger of the Covenant, the great Prophet, Priest and King of Israel, the great Michael of Dan. 12:1. But there were tests connected with His attainment of this high position: (1) In faith He laid aside His Heavenly glory, in obedience to the Father's will, to become a man—not a sinful man, but a perfect man—holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. (2) Thus prepared to become the Redeemer, it was His privilege to make a full consecration of His earthly interests, and the Father's pleasure to beget Him of the Holy Spirit at Jordan to a spirit nature on the highest plane. For 3½ years (Dan. 9:27) His sacrifice burned upon the altar. It was indeed better than any animal sacrifice under the Law, for it was a corresponding price for Adam—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a man's life for a man's life (Deut. 19:21). (3) When the Messiah had thus sacrificially parted with His earthly life, He experienced a resurrection change from human nature to spiritual, like to that which He was originally, only higher and more glorious. Thus He was at once both a sacrifice and the Spirit-begotten priest who offered that sacrifice. When He arose from the dead His personal sacrifice had already ended, and His personal perfection as a spirit being was completed (Heb. 10:1-14; 13:11-13).
REASON FOR DELAY IN BLESSING ISRAEL
Then why did He not at once begin His great work as Prophet, Priest, King and New Covenant Mediator for Israel and through Israel for the world? It was because there was to be more than one sacrifice in the Divine Plan on the antitypical Day of Atonement. Throughout this Gospel Age this risen, glorified High Priest, Mediator, Prophet and King has been waiting to inaugurate His glorious Kingdom of blessing—waiting while a little handful of saints would be selected from the world, tested and found worthy and glorified with Himself—a "Little Flock" from mankind, Jews and Gentiles.
After this Bride class and her companions (Psa. 45:14, 15), the antitypical Priests and Levites of Mal. 3:3, shall have been fully tested and found faithful, then the blessing of Israel as Abraham's seed, and of all nations through Israel, will take place. Thus seen, the revelation of Israel's great Messenger of the New Covenant is very important, not only to the Jew, but also to the world of mankind, who must receive their blessings under Israel by a compliance with the same New Law Covenant.
Notice God's further message through the Prophet, "I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear [reverence] not me" (Mal. 3:5). We see here plainly stated that the Messianic Kingdom will have requirements of faithfulness to the principles of truth, of purity, of harmony with God. And this lesson for the Jew, under his New Covenant arrangement, will ultimately apply to all nations. Under that new arrangement, under Israel's New Covenant, all the families of the earth will be privileged to become "Israelites indeed" through faithfulness to the great Mediator of Israel and of all earth's families.
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