“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more,” Hebrews 10:16-17.
The Lord has a special relationship with the nation of Israel. So often hated by the nations of men, they are beloved of God! He has said of them: “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth,” Deuteronomy 7:6. The word ‘special’ is elsewhere translated by the phrase ‘peculiar treasure, jewel’. We stand in awe of this nation’s relationship with the Lord, despite all their sin and rebellion!
The verses which form our text, are among the final references in the Bible to the Covenant that God has made with Israel and which yet awaits final fulfilment.
I must emphasise that the LORD HAS NOT ABANDONED ISRAEL AND UTTERLY GIVEN THEM UP! That is something that Paul the apostle made ABSOLUTELY plain.
“I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot (know) ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace,”Romans 11:1-5.
Many times, even in the periods of Israel’s deepest apostasy and departure from God, He reiterated the terms of the Covenant and sought to encourage and comfort those who were under His judgment for their sins. Just on Friday past, I read these words in my daily reading. “Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good. For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up. And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart,” Jeremiah 24:4-7.
The day before reading those words, I read these verses, and they are what suggested this study to me:
“Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land,” Jeremiah 23:1-8.
I. THERE ARE TWO ELEMENTS TO THIS COVENANT GOD MADE WITH ISRAEL
1. I am referring to the fact that whenever the Lord reiterated the ‘terms’ of the Covenant to His people via His prophets, there was an application of it to the seventy years of the Babylonian dominance of Judah and the taking into captivity of many of that kingdom (circa. BC 605-BC 537). But it will be seen by a careful study of the words God uses in His repeated assurances, that there is a future application also. Further down that chapter 23, in the verse 20, we read. “The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.” So, it is here made plain that the “thoughts of his (God’s) heart” will not see a final fulfilment until a time “in the latter days”. The word “consider” means “understand”. It is in the latter days that the Jewish people will ‘understand perfectly’ what it is the Lord has planned and been executing over the centuries for His ancient people. That truth is repeated in chapter 30, verse 24. “The fierce anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have done it, and until he have performed the intents of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it.”
This reiteration cannot be dismissed and its implications ignored!
The term “latter days” appears also in the book of Hosea. There the prophet said, “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days,” Hosea 3:4-5.
There is an ‘afterwards’ for Israel in the purpose of God!
2. However, there are other terms and phrases that indicate a future application of God’s promises to the Jewish people. Jacob, on his deathbed, was very conscious that the Lord had a future purpose for his offspring, the nation of Israel. “And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days,” Genesis 49:1. His expectation is born of God’s promise and God would have Jacob’s descendants share in their forefather’s hope.
In the song of Moses, (Deuteronomy 31:19-30), there is again a mention of the ‘latter days’. “For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands,” verse 29. The events of the ‘latter days’ with the forsaking of God that the Jewish people will be sadly guilty of, were known to this generation of the Jews also.
The future tribulation of Israel as well as her blessing is very clearly stated in Holy Scripture. “And these are the words that the LORD spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah. For thus saith the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him: But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them. Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished,” Jeremiah 30:4-11.
Please note the words: “ . . . and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.” Yes, Jacob returned from the Babylonian captivity to his own land but he did not enjoy ‘rest and quiet’! The books of Ezra and Nehemiah make that very plain. And it has been even more so since the rejection of the Lord Jesus and their Messiah by them.
3. Today, it cannot be truthfully said that Israel has rest and quietness within her borders. Indeed it is the very opposite! But the rest and quiet God promised will come about in the ‘latter days’! Again, Israel most certainly does not “serve the LORD their God” as is here prophesied! That lies in the future. The Lord never pronounced His judgment against erring Israel without also reiterating His wonderful promise of a future retribution of their enemies and a restoration of them to their own land, given to them long ago as a heritage.
Here is just one example of this wonderful restating of His purpose for His people.
After declaring the fate that will befall them for their sin: “And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years”, the Lord then states this most gracious assurance of a future deliverance, which I believe we have yet to see fully accomplished. “And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations. For many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of them also: and I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the works of their own hands,” Jeremiah 25:12-14.
II. THERE IS TO BE A REGATHERING OF ISRAEL BACK TO THEIR LAND AND THIS WILL BE FOLLOWED BY THEIR CONVERSION.
1. Here is how Ezekiel states the matter. “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them,” Ezekiel 36:24-27.
The ‘gathering’ of the scattered Jews out of many countries will ‘then’ be followed by a spiritual conversion, stated here in the symbolic language of washing and cleansing. This is then followed by the literal terminology of spiritual regeneration. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”
Resulting from this regeneration is holiness of life amongst those so converted. “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
2. Today, we have seen the first stage of this prophecy take place most literally indeed. In 1948, the state of Israel came into existence for the first time since AD 70 when the Romans destroyed the nation and sold its people into slavery. This is a clear fulfilment of the many prophecies regarding this event. A remnant of world-wide Jewry has indeed been re-gathered to the ancient land of Israel.
3. Since that has LITERALLY been the case, I see no reason why we may not expect the second half of the prophecy to also be literally fulfiled! Certainly, the apostle Paul expected it to be so! “Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? . . . For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? . . . And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy,” Romans 11:12, 15, 23-31.
Zechariah deals with the spiritual conversion of Israel in this manner.
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn,” Zechariah 12:10. The precise time that this will happen is given us in chapter 13:1 and 14:1-4.
“In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”
“Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.”
Jeremiah states the matter so plainly in words from which our text is a quotation by Paul.
“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more,” Jeremiah 31:31-34.
4. Following the conversion of Israel at the return of Christ, there will be a final regathering of ALL the exiled Jews who will be still living amongst the Gentile nations. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth,” Isaiah 11:11-12.
The Lord will use the Gentile nations, which before had been the persecutors of Israel, to now be the couriers used to aid them in their return. “And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD. And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the LORD,” Isaiah 66:20-21.
III. FOLLOWING THE RETURN OF CHRIST TO REIGN UPON THE EARTH, THERE WILL BE AN ORDERING OF EARTH’S AFFAIRS IN A FASHION OF WHICH THE MOSIAC PERIOD IN ISRAEL’S HISTORY WAS A TYPE AND PATTERN
1. I know that the re-instituting of the Mosaic sacrifices and worship are objected to by many Christians. In so doing, they defy the plain word of God! “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles,” Zechariah 14:16-19.
Here are three references to the ‘the feast of tabernacles’. “A threefold cord is not quickly broken,” Ecclesiastes 4:12. Now, there are those who would tell us that the Lord does not mean what He says here. Then will follow a large number of suggestions and suppositions as to what men think the Lord meant by these words. To me, the ‘Lord says what He means and means what He says’!
2. In the days of the Saviour’s Millennial Reign, He will reign from Jerusalem. “And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one,” Zechariah 14:9. His court on earth will be at Jerusalem. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem,” Isaiah 2:2-3.
As it was, to a very small measure in times past, so it will be in a glorious manner in the days of the Saviour’s reign on the earth. What was established in weakness and imperfection under the Levitical tribe and their high priests will be ordered in perfection under the Saviour in future days.
3. In the days of Christ’s reign, the Jewish people will be chief amongst the nations. This was something the Lord promised to Israel subject to their obedience of His Law. But because they utterly failed to be faithful and obedient, they never saw such a blessing as was set forth in Deuteronomy 28:1-13. But they will in that future time when the Lord fulfils His COVENANT in all respects.
Here is what was promised to Israel of old but which, because of their sin, they never attained to.
“And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: and all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.
Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways. And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee. And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them.”
That which the Lord purposed for Israel but which they forfeited by their rebellion, He will bestow upon them in the day spoken of in our text.
Oh, Christian think on these things and rejoice!
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
Saturday 29th July 2023