We find in the pattern of God that He continuously picks the least. Abel was exalted over Cain in that his offering was accepted, but Cain’s was rejected. Abraham’s son Isaac was given the blessing instead of Ishmael. It was said of Jacob before he was even born, “The elder shall serve the younger.” Even King David was the least of his brethren. So the question is: What is it about the lesser that God seems to find favor with? Why does it seem as though God chooses the second, when it is tradition that the firstborn and elder gets the blessing? I have a feeling that it is related to Israel and the end times.
Yes, even of Israel it was said, “you were the least of all people” (Deut 7:7). The Bible’s remarkable focus on the salvation and exaltation of the poor and needy is regarded by unbelieving scholars as a device invented by the Hebrews to preserve identity and national resilience in a world of evil where the strong rule over the weak, thus, the shepherd kingdom of Jewish eschatology. They are right in their observance of this remarkably consistent pattern, but dead wrong in their interpretation. “For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar” (Ps 138:6). It is a principle that is uniform throughout Scripture, but there is something deeper that God is emphasizing.
In all His ways and workings, God is jealous that His elect know Him most particularly and distinctly as ‘the God who raises the dead’. For this cause, they are always being ‘shut up’ to resurrection, not only ultimately, but daily. He is always ‘taking away the first that He may establish the second.” The pattern in Scripture where God chooses a second born over the first born is an illustration of this. God rejects what is born first (human strength) and choses what is born second (born again). In the case of Jacob and Esau, Jacob was the weaker one who came second, but his weakness was precisely the point. God wants to do something in His strength – not in human strength. It is a simple but glorious divine principal that God can only fill what He first empties, but no one is sufficiently emptied of their power by circumstances alone. Only divine revelation is sufficient to take away the veil that stands in the power of our power. That is why salvation and or maturity depends on first breaking the power of the flesh, but this is never accomplished by suffering alone but by revelation that devastates what Paul calls, ‘confidence in the flesh’.
Certainly the believer has personal responsibility and freedom to humble themselves, but the humility which God respects comes from the work of the Spirit. Our most sincere discipline and determined resolve cannot break confidence in the flesh. It takes the Spirit to bring new birth, and death and resurrection. We see this in our own lives and with eschatological Israel. It is very significant that the ‘set time’ to favor Zion works in perfect timing with the moment that the surviving remnant of Israel has been brought to the end of ‘their power’ (Deut 32:36 with Dan 12:7). Israel’s story is illustrating how regeneration works both for the individual and the nation.
Jacob’s trouble is designed by God to bring the surviving remnant of Israel to the transformational moment that takes place at Christ’s return (compare Gal 1:15-16 with Ps 102:13; 110:3; Isa 66:8; Zech 3:9; 12:10; Mt 23:39; Rev 1:7). There will be a witness to Israel that will prepare them to receive “Him whom they have pierced,” but that witness is not enough. God will also use the chastisement of the Antichrist to bring Jacob to the end of His power (Isa 10:5-6). God uses the Antichrist, as He uses suffering in our own life, to bring Israel to the end of her power, to a place she would not naturally go, so that He can pour out His Spirit on the entire nation.
This is why Israel’s eschatological birth and resurrection happens at the very time that Israel’s human strength is broken, just as the covenant predicted (Lev 26:19; Deut 32:36). Human strength must be broken to remove the veil that exists over the nations (Isaiah 25:7). We should notice carefully the profound relationship that exists between the power of the veil and the power of the flesh. The revelation that eternally transforms the nation must come with no help at all from man. This is why God says in Zechariah, “I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication” (Zec 12:10). He must give revelation unto repentance. It is remarkable to observe in how many ways that the eschatological salvation of the corporate ‘Ebhed Yahweh’ (servant of the Lord) is a reiteration of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, the personal Servant. This suggests that Israel will see His face mirrored in their own hour of ultimate calamity and prostration. There is a principle here that we must not miss.
The salvation of Israel, just like the resurrection of her Messiah, awaits an ultimate act of divine intervention and resurrection precisely at the point that their power is gone. Part of this ultimate end of human strength will be the revelation of Him whom they pierced (Zech 12:10). Thus we see how the Spirit of revelation works to destroy the last remains of human self reliance. The scripture says this comes to them suddenly, ‘in one day’ (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9) – just as our new birth comes in a moment. Their travail is finished with the sudden birth of an all holy nation precisely at the point that the Spirit gives revelation and this revelation is given at the end of their human strength. It was so for Paul. It will be so for Israel (Gal 1:15-16 with Ps 102:13; 110:3). We cannot miss this principle. What then does this great principle portend for God’s purpose for the church that will speak for God to both Israel and the nations in the coming tribulation?
Whether in the initial moment of regeneration and divine quickening or the daily and progressive process of sanctification, the principle is always resurrection, whether a climactic event or a divinely orchestrated process whereby Christ is more deeply formed in the believer. But in all circumstances, it is invariably, and always at the ‘end of power’, i.e., power of the flesh. It must always be the work of the Spirit and not the strength of man.
That is why the believer is always being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake. It is the principle, in keeping with what Paul calls, ‘the mystery of the faith,’ that we see taking place in some measure whenever and wherever God’s elect are being ‘formed into the image of Christ.’ Whether this is in our initial regeneration or our progressive sanctification, either way the principle remains – He removes our power to replace it with His. it is the necessary first to remove carnal confidence that impedes spiritual progress, and this is why God orders the circumstances that keep us always cast upon Him.
“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the tribulation we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (2Cor 1:8-9).
Paul is speaking of something far more than the doctrine of the resurrection at the last day. It is to know God experimentally, through many dangers, toils, snares, and “deaths.” We see this process continually in our own lives and in the story of Israel. This is how Israel’s story began and how it will end.
“And as for your nativity, in the day you were born your navel was not cut, neither were you washed in water to supple you. You were not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. No eye pitied you to do any of these things for you or to have compassion on you; but you were cast out in the open field, to the loathing of your person, in the day you were born. And when I passed by and saw you polluted in your own blood, I said to you when you were in your blood, Live! Yes, I said to you when you were in your blood, Live!” (Ezekiel 16:4-6)
As the old song says, “must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free? No, there’s a cross for everyone and there’s a cross for me.” So many of us have experienced this pattern and, if we have not, we should ask serious questions about its absence. God is not going to bring Israel to maturity in a different way from the church. If the church will be a witness to Israel in the last days, how shall we speak to them of things that are strange to our own experience? The church, if it is to be the church, must learn the cross and experience its own death and resurrection before there can be any apostolic sending and certainly before the church can off an end times witness to Israel.
Edited by Samuel Clough