Israel is a hunted sheep driven away by lions. First the king of Assyria devoured it, and now at the end King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon has gnawed its bones. – Jeremiah 50:17
In today’s Daily Lectionary, I couldn’t resist today’s verse … especially after yesterday’s discussion.
Yesterday, I told of God’s people splitting into two rebellious kingdoms after the reign of Solomon. The South, called Judah, headquartered around Jerusalem. The North, called Israel, headquartered around Samaria.
My math says that this is two groups of people. But that’s human math. God eternally, on the other hand, sees Israel as one. Always. Eternally. One. In this case, God’s image for this is one single sheep. At this point in history, they’ve been one sheep in the midst of lions. A lion named Assyria (722 BC) “devoured” half the carcass. A lioness named Babylon (588 BC) “gnawed” on the other half of the bones.
Why, by human math, did we and do we consider Israel and Judah to be two, rather than one? Because of sin! We wrenched (and still wrench) ourselves out of God’s hand. We separated (and still separate) ourselves. We divide. But our sin and our versions of really don’t define God’s reality. God fashioned one people in the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And God’s covenant and promises are never void.
Some have a poison ideology called replacement theology. This train of thought says that when Israel rejected Jesus, the church “replaced” Israel as the new recipients of all of God’s promises. That’s not Biblical! The church – largely made up of Gentiles – is surely grafted into God’s family, but Israel remains loved and chosen by God.
Romans, chapters 9-11, makes this clear. The Apostle Paul says …
11:1 I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel? Of course not! … 2 God has not rejected his own people, whom he chose from the very beginning. … 7 [But] this is the situation: Most of the people of Israel have not found the favor of God they are looking for so earnestly … 10:5 Moses writes that the law’s way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands. 6 But faith’s way of getting right with God says, … 9 “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God.” 11:11 Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. … 11:25 Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. 26 And so all Israel will be saved. … 28 Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 29 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. 30 Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against him, God was merciful to you instead. 31 Now they are the rebels, and God’s mercy has come to you so that they, too, will share in God’s mercy … 33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!
In Christ’s Love,
a guy who is glad that
what God calls “his own”
can never be snatched