Why the Jew?

An email to a correspondent concerning a previous message on “The Tents of Shem”

Your comments have come on the heels of recently revived discussions about Art Katz’s controversial statement containing the term “to bow”, in order to enter into “the tents of Shem”. I would like to highlight another important aspect of this seminal and multifaceted prophecy, showing not only that from the first, God’s eternal purpose in grace would be mediated through Abraham’s elect line, but also, why it is mediated in this way.

As you rightly point out, Noah did not bless Shem directly, but rather, he blessed the God of Shem, whose distinctive character is unknowable apart from the Spirit of revelation. You rightly suggest that Shem’s distinction lies solely in the distinctive character of his God. Thus, the blessing of dwelling in “the tents of Shem” signifies coming into the true revelation of God, as mediated through a priestly people that reflects His nature.

Apart from this priestly character, Jewish descent avails nothing as far as salvation is concerned. However, God is most selective of the means by which He is pleased to mediate the revelation of Himself. This is why Jesus wanted the woman at the well to understand that “salvation is of the Jews”. It is a perfect wisdom that shuts the manna of divine revelation and salvation within – and never outside – the chosen tents of Shem as the hideaway of divine blessing.

In order to dethrone pride, God elects to place the blessing in a despised and disregarded place, into which one must stoop to enter. There is something about tent coverings of badger skins and jars of clay that speak eloquently of this divine jealousy. So indeed, we must bow, in the sense of abasement, to come into and receive what is outwardly weak, foolish, and dismissed by men.

But this is not the whole answer, because we must still ask, “Who makes one to differ from another?” (1Cor 4:7). It is not surprising that God has chosen the meek, the faithful, and those who reflect His priestly character as the channel of His blessing, but why should natural descent count for anything? Since we know that “in the flesh is nothing good”, why distinguish ethnicity in the first place? Why single out a distinct people as the locus and channel of divine blessing, if indeed priestly character is all that counts? Do the Jewish people, by some natural virtue, possess a unique aptitude and faculty for the cultivation of moral religion? Some imagine this, but this is to miss the point entirely.

If we suppose that “neither Jew nor Greek” means ethnicity is of no account any longer, particularly, now that faith has come, why continue to distinguish between Jew and Gentile at all, or between Israel and the Church? Since the covenant is fulfilled in Christ, so that “in Him” there is neither Jew nor Greek, why does Paul continue to speak of a covenant with “the natural branches” that is unfulfilled until the Redeemer’s return? (Isa 59:19-21; Ro 11:26-27)

Why the Jew? As cleverly put to verse, “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” Why does God take no rest until Israel fulfills its original calling to be a mediatorial nation of priests to bless all nations (Ex 19:6; Isa 2:3; 62:2), which is Israel’s millennial destiny (Isa 61:6)? If “all that counts is a new creation” (Gal 6:15), then why is it necessary that the life of this new creation be personified and exhibited through Jews as Jews (“the natural branches”) as a distinct nation, all holy, in their land as long as the earth shall last (Isa 4:3; 45:17; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; 66:21)?

Theologians have called this divinely-preserved distinction “the scandal of particularity”. Notably, such uniform salvation (not a single unsaved Jew – Jer 31:34), and the eternal security of a divinely-guaranteed perseverance in grace (32:40) is not assured to any other nation. Though the nations will enjoy an unprecedented abundance of salvation in the millennium (Isa 27:6; 66:19; Jer 3:17; Mic 4:1-8; Hab 2:14), many will remain unsaved (Isa 26:10; 60:12; 65:20; Zech 8:23; 14:17; Rev 2:27), so that by the end of the millennium, an innumerable host from all nations are ready, at Satan’s behest, to launch another futile assault against the chosen locus of God’s government on earth (Isa 2:3; Rev 20:7-9).

What is God saying in all of this? He has sworn to preserve this distinction for an important prophetic purpose (Jer 30:11; 31:35-37). I believe it is what He’s been saying all along, and intends that Israel demonstrate for one thousand years in the sight of all nations (Ps 98:2-3; Ezek 39:27). Israel exists as a distinct nation for the sake of an ultimate demonstration in history. This is the very purpose of the millennium. This is what makes “the tents of Shem” message so controversial; it underscores this profound mystery.

God hides His secret from pride by mediating the revelation of His salvation through something or someone that is disallowed or despised. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter (Prov 25:2). “Truly You are a God, who hides Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior!” (Isa 45:15). To reiterate, it is important to understand that apart from special revelation, the hidden things of God are unintelligible to the natural man; only by revelation is the heart changed. God hides His secret from pride by mediating the revelation of His salvation through something or someone that is disallowed or despised (1Cor 1:27). “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isa 53:2).

It is a defining principle of all divine dealing and testing that the secret of God’s intention (Eph 1:9) is hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed to babes (Mt 11:25-27). “To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” (Is 53:1).

Divine mystery is like “the flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life”. It is a two-edged sword: to pride, it is a trap and a snare, a rock of offense and a stone of stumbling (cf. Isa 8:14-17; 29:11-14; with 1Cor 1:19; 2:7-14), and conversely, revelation of “the hidden wisdom ordained to our glory” is the kiss of divine friendship (Gen 18:17; Amos 3:7; Jn 15:15) to those who receive what flesh and blood is incapable of receiving (Mt 16:27; 1 Cor 2:7). Even when the mystery “hid in other ages” is revealed and preached to all nations (Mt 24:14; Ro 16:25-26), it remains a “sealed vision” to the children of pride (Isa 8:14-17; 29:11; Dan 9:24; 12:9-10). This is the test by which the world is judged.

The mystery of the gospel (Ro 16:25; 1 Cor 2:7-8; Eph 6:19; Rev 10:7; 19:10b) that stumbled Israel (Isa 8:14-17; 49:7; 53:3-5; Mt 21:42) will once more stumble not only Israel, but all nations, as last-days events press the question of “the everlasting covenant”.  Any literal reading of the great volume of prophetic scripture describing world conditions leading up to the Day of the Lord shows clearly that the age will not end before all nations are in great agitation over the issue of the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, which is also the issue of the everlasting covenant (1 Chron 16:17-18; Isa 24:5).

The controversy of Zion (Ps 2; Isa 34:8; Zech 12:1-2; 14:1-9) is destined to plunge all nations into a final “valley of decision” (Joel 3:14).

Manifestly, God intends that the entire world be confronted over the question of His sovereign choice of Jacob. It is an ultimate point of divine contention that provokes an ultimate act of divine intervention.

“I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel,
whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.”
(Joel 3:2).

“Therefore, wait ye upon me,” says the Lord, “until the day that I rise up to the prey:
for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation”
(Zeph 3:8).

Scripture appears to regard the attitude of the nations toward Israel as the measure of their attitude toward God. Significantly, in the imagery of John’s apocalypse, an attack on the people, land, and city of the covenant is regarded as an attack on the Lamb (Rev 17:12-14). This final assemblage of the nations against the symbols of “the holy covenant” (Ezek 38-39; Dan 9:27; 11:22, 28, 30-32; 12:11; Joel 3:2; Zech 12:1-2, 9; 14:2; Mt 24:15-29; Lk 21:24; Rev 11:2; 16:14-16; 19:15-21) is treated in scripture as a consummate effrontery that causes God’s “fury to come up” in His face (Ezek 38:18).

Since the scripture is plain that God has determined to make the end-time crisis of Israel a watershed issue of divine testing for all nations (Isa 34:8; Joel 3:2; Zech 12:2-3), it would be surprising indeed if the issue of Israel is not, in some sense, inseparably related to the gospel.

The everlasting gospel derives from what the prophets call “the everlasting covenant”. This includes both advents of Messiah and the full scope of the promise, including Israel’s restoration (Ro 11:27). As such, it follows that the “blood of the everlasting covenant” is inextricably linked to the literal covenantal provisions pertaining to both the people and the land, and not merely to His promise to bless all nations through Abraham’s seed. God sees the whole sweep of the covenant, in all its specific features and provisions, as an indivisible unity that stands or falls together (Gen 12:33; Ro 11:25-27; Eph 3:6; Heb 13:20; 1 Chron 16:17; Ps. 105:10-11; Ezek 37:25-26).

This is why the rebellious angelic powers of this present evil age are so committed to oppose, not only a part, but the whole of what pertains to the full scope of the everlasting covenant. This scope necessarily encompasses both advents of Christ and the open vindication of the everlasting covenant in Israel’s full restoration at Jesus’s post-tribulational return.

We maintain that God sees and treats the everlasting covenant, in all its features and provisions, as an inseparable unity, a single continuity of covenant commitment whereby God puts His own Name and the vindication of His covenant oath on the line (“as truly as I live”, saith the Lord…). The observation that the promise will be realized in stages and in first-fruits installments does nothing to alter or replace any part of the inextricably linked covenant chain of fulfillment.

When it comes to the spoken Word of God, as manifestly understood by the prophets to whom it first came, fulfillment is an all-or-nothing proposition. The plain meaning of plain language stands or falls together, since God has bound His Word, His covenant oath, and His name to the plenary consummation of every jot and tittle of that Word.

His name and His fame is at stake. He meant it to be. Can He bring in, fully and finally forever, that same intractable people whom He first brought out (Num 14:13-21)? This is the question that history waits to answer, and its answer will be as God declared to Moses, “as truly as I live, (when this is done), all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD” (Num 14:21; Eze 36:22, 32). God’s self-appointed “mission impossible” will be the age-ending climax of history, to the praise of the glory of His sovereign grace!

To see God’s covenant pledge as an indivisible unity – as He sees it – we must understand that in any age or dispensation, there is only one means by which anyone can be justified.

That means is the imputation of the coming Surety’s righteousness. God can do this only because He sees the sacrifice of the Son as an already-accomplished certainty in His eternal predestination (Acts 2:23; Rev 13:8). Nothing of His eternal purpose was left to human contingency.

This is how covenant predestination of an abiding, “everlasting righteousness” bears most directly on the question, not only of the nation’s eschatological salvation, but equally, of the secure and abiding inheritance of the Land, as public witness to the power and faithfulness of God. The Lord considers His making good on part of the covenant as the sure guarantee that what remains will be as faithfully fulfilled, and with the same literalness of detail.

As mentioned, the outstanding question of history as concerning the Jews and the onlooking powers, is whether God can do all He promised for this particular people, who already bear a notable history of covenant failure. This is where the question of a righteousness that is not one’s own comes so powerfully into play.

Critically, for Israel, lasting tenure in the land as a people is inseparably connected to her coming into possession of the “everlasting righteousness” proclaimed in the prophets (Jer 32:40; Dan 9:24). The unexpected glory of this kind of righteousness is that it falls nothing short of God’s own impeccable righteousness as perfectly accomplished in the Son (Isa 26:12; 45:25; 53:17; Jer 23:6), and then, in real measure, in the believer by the Spirit. It is nothing less than the righteousness that is put to the credit of every true, Spirit-born believer in Jesus (2Cor 5:21). This is the same new/everlasting covenant righteousness that the saints of the OT entered into by penitent faith (see Num. 11:25-26, 29; 14:24; 27:18; Ps 51:10; Prov 1:23; Isa 55:1-3; Eze 18:31), but which the nation as a whole waits to enter until the post-tribulational day of the Lord.

Necessarily then, this perfect righteousness that alone satisfies all the demands of the law had to be wrought out and performed perfectly in the spotless humanity of the Substitute (Mt 3:15). It is this predestined divine accomplishment on the sinner’s behalf that gives the Spirit (in any age) His lawful right to “quicken whom He will” (Mt 11:27; Jn 5:21; Ro 9:18). And though not so fully revealed, this pending but already-secured sacrifice is the basis of the gift of God’s eternal life in the soul of man, as experienced by all the true remnant of faith, whether living before or after the cross.

Without this necessary apprehension by the gift of faith, Israel will always stand in covenant jeopardy. Judgment always looms, and the promise that a fully redeemed, all-holy nation will “lie down in peace and safety” would remain forever an elusive prospect, only temporarily enjoyed at best.

Only a righteousness that is eternally secure can guarantee permanent possession of the land because conditional possession based on obedience can never be permanently secure. However, God’s solution to this dilemma is not removal of the condition of abiding holiness. As Paul will argue, the conditionality of the Law can do nothing to defeat the success of the promise of the unilateral covenant cut with Abraham (Gen 15:12-21, Gal 3:17, Heb 6:17). God has determined to meet and fulfill every necessary condition by Himself alone (Gen. 22:8).

This does not neglect the real, human obedience that Israel must and will yield in order to secure the promise. It simply means that the source of that obedience will be God alone, through the sacrifice of the Substitute, and through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The covenant promise cannot be satisfied only by a spiritual birth or resurrection (Isa 66:8, Ezek 37:9). It necessarily includes national restoration to the land (Lev 26:42; 1 Chron 16:17; Ps 105:10-11; Isa 62:4; Ezek 37:25-26; Mic 4:1-8; Acts 1:6; 3:18-21; Ro 11:25-29), but secure and lasting possession of the land will not be possible until the everlasting righteousness of God in Christ has been revealed, not only to a remnant dwelling in the midst of an apostate nation, but to the whole of the nation, when the Jewish survivors of the last tribulation are suddenly regenerated “in one day” (Ps 102:13; Isa 66:8, Zech 3:9, 12:10, Matt 23:39; Rom 11:26; Rev 1:7). “From that day and forward”, all Israel will know the Lord. (Ezek 39:22, 28-29; Jer 31:34), never again to be menaced by the Gentile invader (2 Sam 7:10, Amos 9:15, Isa 54:14-17, Jer 31:38-40).

Whereas the everlasting righteousness purchased in the Redeemer’s blood has come already to the remnant, a clear and inclusive reading of the promise will show that a mere remnant is never sufficient to hold the land in secure perpetuity. Only the salvation of “all Israel” in a preserved, “everlasting righteousness” would be able to fulfill the promise of “everlasting possession”. Only this will satisfy the full scope and demand of the everlasting covenant as understood by the prophets.

It is common for interpreters to assume that when Paul says “and so all Israel shall be saved” (Rom 11:26), he has nothing more in mind than a yet-future engrafting of some additional Jews back into the “natural branches” of the covenant olive tree, thus completing the full number of the elect. On the contrary, like the prophets before him, Paul is looking to that time when there will not be a single Jewish soul alive on the earth who does not know the Lord (Jer 31:34). He is looking for that time expected by all the prophets, when no longer a mere remnant, but “all Israel” will be righteous, and continue in that righteousness “unto children’s children, world without end” (compare Deut 4:29-31; 30:5-6; Isa 4:3; 45:17, 25; 54:13, 17; 59:21; 60:21; 61:8-9; 65:23; 66:22; Jer 31:34; Eze 37:25; 39:22, 29-29; Joel 2:28; Zeph 3:13). Only their full return to the Land in the strength of a righteousness that is not their own is sufficient to fulfill Paul’s meaning when he said “This is My covenant with them…” (Isa 27:9; 59:21; Jer 31:34; Ro 11:26-27).

This is Paul’s clear meaning, based on his reading of the prophets’ manifest understanding of the everlasting covenant. In Paul’s view, it remains outstanding and incomplete until it is fulfilled “with them” (Rom 11:27). When the Jew is back in his covenanted place, fully clothed in Christ’s righteousness alone, then, as truly as the Lord lives, “the whole earth will be filled with My glory” (Num 14:20). The prophets were aware that only the enduring divine righteousness of the Lord Himself would qualify the nation for enduring blessing in the land.

Whereas the righteous remnant were not strangers to the circumcision of the heart (Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4) and the law written in the heart (Ps 37:31; 40:8; Isa 51:7), even the new heart and the new spirit (Ezek 18:31), Paul will argue that even more than any particular form of transgression, and even before Jesus arrived, the larger nation had already stumbled by their failure to approach the requirement of righteousness by grace through faith, rather than by the works of natural strength and self-reliance (Isa 8:14-15, 28:16; Rom 4:1-7, 9:30-10:3).

As Israel stumbled over Jesus, so will all nations stumble over Israel, by reason of the same prophetic mystery. “But the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand” (Dan 12:10). Anti-Semitism reveals an autonomous contempt for the constraints of God’s sovereign election and rule. Because anti-Semitism results from a failure to regard the sovereignty of God in all things, it is a form of deicide. Not understanding the profound implications of such phrases as “through their fall” (Ro 11:11) and “for your sakes” (Ro 11:28), the nations have laid presumptuous and bloody hands on the servant “who is blind” (Isa 42:19) for their sake.

“It was foreordained that Israel should reject him temporarily in order that the Gentiles might accept him. Here again is an example of God permitting his people to be bruised that the world might be healed.” (Jacob Gartenhaus, Rebirth of a Nation, pg. 59, Broadman). In the mystery of God, Israel’s rejection of “the heir” (the Servant-Son Messiah) is answered in the rejection of Israel (the servant-son nation) by the nations. As Israel has said, “We will not have this man rule over us!”, so the nations have said, “We will not have this nation rule over us!” But all have said, “We will not have this God rule over us!”

Because God’s pre-temporal decision is not based on works (Ro 9:11-23), it exposes a latent resentment and envy in the natural heart, disinclined as it is to agree with the righteousness of God’s choice, which is ultimately to question His of rule. “Is it not lawful for me to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am good?” (Mt 20:15). This deep-seated quarrel with the election, and therefore, with the Word and rule of God, explains the rage of the nations in the Last Days siege against the people, land, and city of the covenant. (Isa 2:4; Isa 34:8; Joel 3:2; Dan 9-12; Mt 24:15-29; 2 Thess 2; Rev 11:2; 12; 19) It is the eschatological manifestation of Satan’s long war against the covenant (Rev 12:4).

God has predetermined history in a way that defies human understanding. However, the believer knows that nothing concerning God’s election is arbitrary or random. Rather, it is indispensable to the glory of His eternal purpose (Gen 18:25, Eph. 3:11). To the natural mind, such apparent discrimination will seem arbitrary and unfair, but this is precisely the point. Such a radical challenge to human understanding profoundly exposes the true disposition of the heart. This seems to be the point in Jesus’ momentary refusal of the woman of Canaan in Mt 15:22-28: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

What does Jesus seek in this woman that causes Him to require her acknowledgment of Israel’s unique covenant status and privilege? Something high must come down in order for grace to abound. The apparent ‘exclusion’ of covenant restriction becomes God’s opportunity to include, on the basis of grace alone, all who will bow to the authority and justice (Gen 18:25) of His sovereign right to have mercy on whom He will have mercy (Jn 5:21; Ro 9:18).

Paul explains that the election of Jacob is necessary so “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth” (Ro 9:11). All is to underscore the great maxim of Romans 9:16: “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” History and prophecy will bear this out: the entire drama of redemption, including its ends and ultimate goal, depends on the initial establishment and preservation of an essential ethnic distinction between Jew and Gentile.

For this cause, Christ must come out of Jacob (Num 24:19), and be made of the seed of David according to the flesh (Acts 2:30; Ro 1:3), and for this cause, He will return to “the remnant of His brethren” (Deut 30:3; Mic 5:3), Paul’s “kinsmen according to the flesh” (Ro 9:3), who will “in that day” return to Him (Hos 3:4-5; 5:15-6:2; Mt 23:39; Ro 11:25-29).

To lose the Jew-Gentile distinction would be to lose the purpose invested in this great landmark of divine instruction. Furthermore, it is to set light by the enormity of divine cost that such an eschatological demonstration implies. “For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel” (Isa 4:23). “Also, your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified” (Isa 60:21).

Through Israel, God will be known to all nations as the God who chooses, and that His favor is not based on anything He ‘finds’ in man, but on what He has determined to put within (create, birth, quicken) those whom He has foreknown (Jer 31:33; 32:40; Ezek 36:26-27; Ro 8:29-30). “Jacob have I loved” (9:13) before he becomes Israel, before he has done good or evil. This precipitates the question: was the election of Jacob based on divine foresight of the change in his character, or did God’s election assure that change?

The answer to this question is not left to theological speculation; it is answered by prophecy, and will be ultimately answered by history itself. It is not the change that determines election; it is election that assures the change. This seems to be the point of Paul’s analogy of the potter’s freedom in Ro 9:21. The same principle that removes the ground of all boasting (Ro 11:18; 1Cor 4:6-7; Eph 2:9) provides the assurance that “God is able to graft them in again”, by no might of their own (Ps 102:13, Ezek 36:22, 32; Ro 11:23).

Because the truth of election is ultimately humbling, it is ultimately redemptive. It is the death sentence to everything that is lofty and self-assured, but the seal of a “blessed assurance” where “confidence in the flesh” has been shattered. Nothing else so profoundly offends and tests the natural heart, and this is why I am in agreement with the controversial use of the term “bow”, when used in this context. Though strange to modern hearing, it is, after all, a very biblical metaphor (Isa 49:23; 60:14). The only bowing that scripture intends is before the God who is distinguished by what He has spoken and performed (Rev 19:10b).

Through Israel’s restoration, the covenants of promise receive final historical vindication. Apart from this great apocalyptic act of divine power, the covenant is incomplete, but because the election cannot fail, “all Israel shall be saved” (cf. Isa 54:13; 59:21; Amos 9:9; Jn 6:45; Ro 9:6; 11:26). God has gone to utmost lengths, at imponderable divine expense, in order to make ultimate and public demonstration of this principle, through a people that history has shown to be hopelessly incapable of covenant fulfillment. This is precisely the point: Israel’s impossible condition exists for the glory of God. (Jn 9:3 with Jn 11:3, 15)

The conditional promise which said “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land” (Isa 1:19), is made secure by an eschatological act of transforming grace, ensuring Israel’s collective willingness “in that day”. “Your people shall be willing in the day of Your power” (Ps 110:3; Gal 1:15-16).

All of the blessings and promises of the conditional covenant are unconditionally guaranteed by the sovereign “I will”s of God’s predetermined purpose (cf. Jer 24:7; 31:33; 32:39-40; Ezek 11:19; 36:27 et al), ensuring that “from that day and forward” (Ezek 39:22), “all Israel” will know Him distinctively and experientially as the God who raises the dead (Ps 102:20; Ezek 37:13; Hos 6:1-2; Eph 2:1; 2Cor 1:9). Then will all Israel say with one voice: “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Ps 118:22-26; Mt 23:39 with Zech 12:10).

The covenant, in its totality, is incomplete until they are all Israel that are of Israel (Isa 60:21; Jer 31:34). This is the climax of the covenant. This was the expectation of the OT prophets and it remained the expectation of Paul. This is what Paul means when he says “and so, all Israel shall be saved”“for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sin” (Ro 11:26-27).

This miracle of national transformation comes through the supernatural regeneration of the surviving remnant (Isa 4:2; Zech 13:8-9), by the revelation of their rejected and now-returning Messiah (Ps 118:22; Zech 12:10). It will come suddenly and at once (“in one day”); Isa 66:8; Ezek 39:22; Zech 3:9), “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Mt 24:29), “when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered” (compare Deut 32:36; Dan 12:7 with Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1). It is the Day of the Lord. “Behold, it is come, and it is done,” saith the Lord GOD; “this is the day whereof I have spoken” (Ezek 39:8, 22; Rev 16:14-17). It is Joseph revealed to his brethren. It is the persecutor, Saul, arrested in his opposition, to become Paul to the nations.

In the same way that Paul could say “When it pleased God to reveal His Son in me …”(Gal 1:15-16), even so, at “the time appointed” (Ps 102:12; Dan 11:27, 35), the nation of the Jews, in its own Damascus Road experience, will know the mystery that was revealed to Paul (cf. Isa 8:14-17; Dan 9:24; 12:9; Ezek 39:22-23; Zech 12:10; with Rev 10:7; 20:2). Israel’s final restoration to covenant favor at the second coming of her rejected Messiah is history’s ultimate answer to the question “Hath God really said?” (Gen 3:1). Israel’s impossible condition exists for the glory of God.

This is why God has unfinished business with “the natural branches”. For this cause, Israel must be transformed into a holy nation of priests in the sight of all nations, as an ultimate testimony to the sovereignty of God’s ways in grace, whereby men from every nation (Isa 55:3; 61:8-9; Zech 8:23 et al) are made to see, to be humbled, and to cry out “While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by!”

I believe that this helps to explain why “the tents of Shem” message is so controversial. It touches issues of great sensitivity that challenge comfortable categories. True prophetic revelation provokes and requires a deep wrestling with implications that are not always spelled out, because God still hides His secret from autonomous self-reliance, even in the plain hearing of it.

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