If we side with Israel in this war, we will not be more blessed than if we hadn’t. Instead, modern-day Israel is a people we must pray for, a people we must evangelize, and a people we will interlock hands with in glory, shouting together in the resurrection, singing the praises of our King right alongside them.
This Dispensational Moment
Every time a rocket is launched from the Gaza strip, a dispensationalist gets his wings. And by wings, I mean like Red Bull, in that he will receive a rather large boost of courage, enough, in fact, to crawl up and out of the hole he has been hiding in from his last failed prediction and to flood the internet with a panoply of reasons why the end times are really here this time and happening right before our eyes. This confusion is entirely unhelpful and could be cleared up if any of my former 28 articles and podcast episodes on the topic of eschatology were seriously engaged with. Shameless plug intended.
Along with this, I have also seen a litany of social media posts proclaiming solidarity with Israel in their current war with Hamas, because they are God’s chosen people and we do not want to be on the wrong side with God. For this reason, before getting on to our topic today, I thought it might be wise to mention a few things to consider regarding the covenantal status of modern-day Israel.
Still God’s Chosen People?
Perhaps the best place to start would be with what the word Israel means. From the Scriptures, the first time the word is used is when God wrestles with Jacob and then renames Him Israel, which means “the one who wrestles with God.” Knowing this, it is obvious that “Israel” is not a genetic term that is passed through bloodlines down through families in the same way “Egyptian” would be. To be a member of Israel was a spiritual activity, of knowing God and wrestling with Him in intimate fellowship, not just merely inheriting the right DNA.
We know this is true, because God calls all kinds of ethnic peoples “Israel.” For instance, when the Israelites leave the land of Egypt, escaping from the slavery to be a free people serving their covenant God, the text tells us that a “mixed multitude” went out with them (Exodus 12:38). Apparently, there was a contingency of Egyptians who were so impressed by Yahweh, that they abandoned the empire of the Pharaohs and joined themselves with Israel, becoming followers of Jehovah. Just like the ethnic born sons of Abraham, they too were accounted as Israel.
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By Joseph S. Laughon — 2 years ago
Written by Joseph S. Laughon |
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
[The] account of Evangelicals being late to the pro-life cause isn’t meant to convince the serious pro-lifer but to poison the well against pro-life advocacy. If the public can be convinced that pro-lifers are disingenuous, and hiding racist motivations, then it can more easily disregard discomfort about the ethics of abortion.
As the pro-life movement remains entrenched among American voters, a new pro-choice talking point has entered the media narrative.
In the new historiography of the abortion debate, the reason that pro-lifers are against abortion is not that they sincerely believe it to be murder. Rather they are operating from a false consciousness, hiding their real motive, racism. That narrative, which now gets repeated by the usual pro-choice advocates in media outlets such as the Guardian and the New York Times, is inaccurate and disingenuous. It is an obvious attempt to manufacture a politicized history.
The narrative is simple: American Evangelicals never were pro-life and were in fact quite pro-choice until, losing their apparent battle in favor of segregation, they decided (for reasons never fully explained) to turn against abortion in their presumed quest for political power. There are several problems with this. For starters, it doesn’t matter. No one’s convictions about abortion have their basis in what some Evangelicals allegedly believed half a century ago. Before someone decides whether abortion is wrong, he doesn’t ask himself, “Wait! What did W. A. Criswell believe?” Moreover, this point ignores both the influence of American Roman Catholics in the pro-life movement and the growing secular pro-life contingent.
The main problem with this account however is its inaccuracy bordering on total falsehood. It ignores the history of Christians opposing abortion for two millennia and assumes that the American Evangelical experience starts in the late 20th century. In his compelling work Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America, Marvin Olasky, the noted Evangelical journalist, lays out the pre-Roe history of Evangelical Americans’ fight against abortion. From the Colonial era onward, American Protestants, both mainliners and their Evangelical counterparts, took inspiration from the Bible as well as from the ancient, medieval, and early modern church in their doctrine on abortion. Though limited in their scope at first, American Protestants sought to keep abortion criminalized, increasing the pressure as it became more common in the United States. While it is true that Evangelical Americans’ history with abortion is more nuanced than thought in some quarters, the whole story is not one that makes for good pro-choice agitprop.
It’s telling that this chronicle always starts in the early 1970s. A more complete history would start in the ancient Near East, where the early Christians uniformly interpreted their scriptures, replete with texts about the personhood of the unborn, as prohibiting abortion. As early as the first century, Christians taught:
The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child. [Didache 2:1–2 (a.d. 70)]
The medieval Church was no different, and the Protestant Reformers were similarly consistent in their stance. Early Americans would be most influenced by the latter, as most were some variety of British Protestant. Early American Protestants would have been informed as well by the British legal environment in which abortion was a serious crime. To take pro-choice revisionists at their word, one would have to believe that, with Roe, the Supreme Court struck down restrictive abortion laws that came from nowhere and were passed by nobody but merely existed.
By Steve Richardson — 8 months ago
As sinners we stand in need of grace and mercy more than anything else; and David is saying that’s one thing that I shall always have. God will never cease to deal with me in mercy: and He will always be good to me. The Bible admits that there are times when He seems to hide His face as He chastises those He loves, but He never forgets His promises, and He never ceases to be good to His sheep.
The Shepherd of whom the psalm speaks of is Jesus. It was Jesus Himself who would later say, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” So, when we say “the LORD is my shepherd” we are talking about the Lord of glory. This is Emmanuel: God with us. He is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” and the One by whom “all things were created.”
So we have here a very capable Shepherd. He is wise, He is strong, and with Him the Bible says there is nothing impossible. But what comforts David isn’t only His strength or sovereignty or wisdom. It is His character. We see repeatedly in Israel’s history that they had shepherds (pastors and leaders) who utterly failed them. But the promise of Ezekiel is that where men failed them the Lord Jesus wouldn’t. Men may not love them but God loved them; and being the Good Shepherd He had said that He would search them out and find them. He had said that He would bind them up, He would feed them, he would protect them, and He would be their shield and their exceeding great reward.
And, of course, He came as He promised. This, then, is the kind of Shepherd that we have: One altogether unlike these miserable shepherds who fed only themselves. Jesus actually lay down His life for the sheep. He was (and is) so committed to them, so full of love and compassion for them that He would lay down His life for theirs. When you say “the Lord is my Shepherd” you are talking about a good Shepherd. He is not only a competent Shepherd and a diligent Shepherd and a faithful Shepherd. He is also a loving Shepherd. He loves His sheep. And so He seeks out the scattered and the lost and brings them back to Himself. He binds up the wounded, He feeds His people, and He leads them beside the still waters. He is with them and He comforts them.
There are three things that I would like to highlight in this psalm.
First, David does not say the Lord is a Shepherd or the Lord is the Shepherd. He says the Lord is my Shepherd. What a marvellous thing to be able to say! “He is my Shepherd.” It’s so personal. Do you know that is just what He says about us. “You are mine”. He is a shepherd and we are sheep – but we can actually say, by faith, that we are His sheep and He is our shepherd. When a wolf comes a hireling flees. He’s afraid. And these aren’t his sheep anyway, so he doesn’t have a vested interest in them. He’s a hireling, and he runs. He doesn’t care for the sheep, but the Good Shepherd does. That’s why He – unlike the hireling – doesn’t run, that’s why He doesn’t forsake us, and that’s why the Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep… because He loves them. And He loves with a love that God says passes knowledge.
Let the wonder of those words to sink in: the Lord is my Shepherd. The God of heaven and earth, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the One who takes up the isles as a little thing and counts the nation as a drop in a bucket, this great Redeemer who is mighty to save and unapproachable in the brightness of His majesty, this holy King who is good and faithful and kind is mine, and I am his. This is why David says “I shall not want.”
Isn’t that what we hope for our children, that they shall want for nothing? The question isn’t whether we are willing to provide for them and care for them. The question is whether we can. Here there is no question… Knowing nothing about the particulars of the coming days David can still say, “I shall not want.” Its as if he is asking a rhetorical question: “How can I want when I have Him? How can I truly lack anything when I have God?” David knows that with a Shepherd like the Lord Jesus he shall be very well cared for. Do you remember how Paul put it? If God would give His Son for us how will He not with Him give us all things? In other words, if He wouldn’t spare His own Son, surely He will not withhold anything truly good for us. But David is also saying “having Him I have all. I have God for my Shepherd so I already have everything.”
That is the great reality that explains the rest of this Psalm. Over and over again we read here about what the LORD will do. He makes me lie down, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul, and He leads me in the paths of righteousness. None of that should come as a surprise because He is our Shepherd and we are His sheep.
Do you know what it is about Him that allows the psalmist to speak in this way? Again, I am not talking about His sovereignty, His providence, or His ability to look after you and protect you. I am talking about Him: the Shepherd himself – the beloved. Its because I have Him that I can say “I shall not want.” Other things can be taken from me, but not Him. And what the psalmist is saying in these words is simply this: He is enough. When the bride (in the Song of Solomon) was asked what it was about Him that was “more” than other beloveds she didn’t back down and apologize for exaggerating. She had an answer. She said, “My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.” She went on and then ended with these words: “His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”
By B.C. Newton — 1 year ago
Written by B.C. Newton |
Tuesday, September 13, 2022
Jesus is unveiling a deeper understanding of the Christ for all who have eyes to see. He is revealing that the Christ will not a great but ultimately lesser imitation of David, as if David’s reign was the very pinnacle for God’s people. No, the coming Son of David would be so great that even His great and Holy Spirit-led ancestor David bowed before Him and called Him Lord.
And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,“Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’
David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.
And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”Mark 12:35-44 ESV
While the early church began to grow and thrive in Jerusalem following Pentecost, it certainly was met with many challenges. Perhaps the most pervasive challenge was the opposition of the religious leaders. Just as Jesus warned, they hated the apostles with the same beastly vitriol that they had aimed at Christ. In Acts 5, the high priest and the Sadducees arrested the apostles and brought them before the Sanhedrin to give an account as to why they continued to preach about Jesus. Peter answered:
We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.VV. 29-32
As this answer, the members of the council were ready to kill the apostles, but a Pharisee on the council named Gamaliel gave a word of caution. He recounted for them two would-be Messiahs who gathered a large number of followers but were killed and their followers dispersed. His advice was then:
So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”VV. 38-39
After being beaten, the apostles were released and rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (v. 41). Indeed, rather than silencing Jesus’ disciples, the threats of the rulers only caused them to proclaim Christ all the more boldly. Over the next several decades, the words of Gamaliel proved true. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes tried to crucify the news of Jesus’ resurrection just like they once crucified Him, yet they could not suppress the work of God. For all their schemes, they were placed under Christ’s feet as His steadily built His church by the power of His Spirit as He sat enthroned at the right hand of the Father.
A Question for the Questioners: Verses 35–37
Now that we have read Christ’s responses to four questions from the religious leaders (three being hostile and one sincere), the conclusion of chapter twelve gives us three distinct passages that build upon one another and upon everything that has come before. In this first passage (verses 35-37), Jesus goes on the offensive by presenting His own question. We are not told that Jesus directed this question toward a particular group, whether the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, etc. Instead, the text simply read, “And as Jesus taught in the temple…” Thus, this seems to be a generally proposed question, yet given the business of the religious leaders in the temple, I think we can still rightly read the point of this question being aimed at them.
Here is Jesus’ question:
How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,“Sit at my right hand,until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘
David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?
The main premise of this question centers upon the understanding of the Christ (or Messiah) being the son or descendent of David. The root of this belief is 2 Samuel 7:12-16, where God promised a son with an eternal throne to come from David. And that great promise is reiterated in various ways throughout the Scriptures (Psalm 132 being one of the most explicit). Thus, the scribes as students and teachers of God’s law were correct in this belief that the Christ would be the son of David. And let us remember that even Bartimaeus had received some teaching of this great hope.
Thus, Jesus is in no way denying that He is descendent of David; instead, His question revealed new depths that their understanding had failed to see. To probe these depths, Jesus cited Psalm 110:1, where David speaks of two persons, both called Lord. In the Old Testament, we find that the two ‘Lords’ look a bit different with the first being entirely capitalized and the second having only the first letter capitalized. This is to reflect that two different words are used in Hebrew. The first LORD is Yahweh, the holy and personal name of God, that is often translated as LORD because it was a common practice for later Jews to say Adonai (Lord) when reading instead of Yahweh. Thus, the first person, the first Lord, is Yahweh Himself, the Maker of heaven and earth. The second Lord is Adonai in Hebrew. R. C. Sproul notes that:
In most cases in the Old Testament, Adonai is the supreme title of Yahweh. It means “the One who is absolutely Sovereign.” This is why we sometimes find the words LORD and Lord back-to-back in Scripture. For example, in Psalm 8 we read, “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth” (v. 1a). This text literally reads, “O Yahweh, our Adonai.” It is saying, “O Yahweh, our Sovereign One, how excellent is your name.”
Thus, Psalm 110 reads, “Yahweh says to my Adonai…” Thus, we have David, Israel’s greatest king, not only submitting to Yahweh but also to another person, an even greater sovereign. Who such a person be, except the coming Messiah? Thus, we have Jesus’ question: how could David’s son also be David’s Lord?
The question goes unanswered, in some ways, because it was not meant to be answered. Jesus is not inviting a theological debate here. That is not the goal of His question. Instead, Jesus is unveiling a deeper understanding of the Christ for all who have eyes to see. He is revealing that the Christ will not a great but ultimately lesser imitation of David, as if David’s reign was the very pinnacle for God’s people. No, the coming Son of David would be so great that even His great and Holy Spirit-led ancestor David bowed before Him and called Him Lord. The Christ would not just be like David; He would be the greater David.
This, therefore, primarily (though subtly) served as a rebuke and warning to the religious leaders that sought to destroy Jesus. For if Jesus truly was the Christ, then they would be guilty of playing the role of Saul, seeking to destroy David in the wilderness. Saul was certainly allowed to humble David for a season, yet the LORD ultimately disposed of him and exalted David in his place. In the same way, the religious leaders would be allowed to war against Christ for a season and even to kill Him, yet He would ultimately rise again and ascend to the right hand of the Father to rule as His enemies are placed under His feet.
Thus, this question is Jesus warning the religious leaders that their opposition toward Him is an opposition to God. It was a promise that they could not ultimately destroy Him and, in attempting to do so, would be destroyed themselves.
But even while no one dared answer or question Jesus anymore, “the great throng heard him gladly.” Matthew Henry rightly notes however: