Today's scripture focus passage: Luke 13:34-35
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’"Ha, John MacArthur has no less than FIVE sermons on these two verses. FIVE! I did listen to three of them, but only briefly skimmed the other two. They were all very interesting in and of their own rights, but in a way they weren't really talking about THIS passage. This was the jumping off point, but the main focus of all five sermons was God's promise-keeping faithfulness to Israel as a nation. I found the last one particularly interesting because he gets more deeply into the differences between "covenant" and dispensationalist theologies.
The quick run-down is this: Dispensationalists believe Israel is still God's chosen nation and they will one day return to Him as a nation, and be the light to the world He planned for them to be. The Church ~ the "Gentiles" ~ is grafted in through God's grace and receives the same spiritual blessings promised to all God's people, while the physical blessings promised are still for Israel as a real, literal nation at some point in the future yet to come. Those adhering to covenant theology, on the other hand, believe The Church has replaced the Jews as God's chosen people. Israel no longer figures into God's plan as a nation. Believing, or Messianic, Jews are simply considered part of The Church and receive their blessing and the fulfilled promises as members of The Body of Christ.
Now this passage breaks down into three sections: compassion, condemnation, and conversion. We see initially Jesus' broken heart over His people who've rejected Him and are about to scream for His crucifixion. He condemns them for their rejection of those who've been sent by God ~ the judges, the prophets, their Messiah ~ to guide them, to warn them, to call them to repentance. In response, effectively what He says here then is that He is going to leave them. This is not talking about His death on the cross and the fact that He won't physically be on earth anymore after His resurrection and ascension. He's saying God is actually withdrawing, removing Himself from them as a nation. He is leaving them to their own devices. They are on. their. own.
And this one solitary, beautiful word is where the importance of covenant vs. dispensationalist theology comes into play. Jesus says He won't be with them anymore UNTIL the day comes when the Jews, His Chosen people recognize, accept, and worship Him as their Messiah. That one word ~ "UNTIL" ~ is proof that day will come. He didn't say "unless," which would indicate certain conditions must be met first. No, He says "until." There will be conversion in the hearts of His people. And when that happens, when they return to Him, He will return to them.
The key in all this, I think, is to remember the Abrahamic covenant and the Davidic covenant were not conditional promises God made to His people. These two sets of promises were not dependent upon Israel's performance. Yes, there are many times in the Old Testament where God promised blessing and prosperity to the nation if they kept His commandments and death and destruction if they didn't, but God's promises to Abram and David regarding the future of the people contain no such conditional language. When God made His promises to Abram, He did not enter into a traditional covenant contract together with Abram (the walking-between-the-halves-of-slaughtered-animals ritual), but rather, He made Abram a witness as He made this covenant with Himself.
I believe there is a future for Israel as a nation. A future that includes a nation-wide revival, a turning back to the God of their forefathers, a revelation of Christ as their Messiah. I believe it, not because John MacArthur believes it, or even because I personally believe the Bible gives that indication in numerous places in the Old and New Testament.
I believe it because I believe God keeps His promises.
If He doesn't, there's really no point in Christianity.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading: 1 Thessalonians 5; Proverbs 16; Isaiah 37-38
Tomorrow's scripture focus passage: Luke 14:1-6