Wednesday, August 26, 2009
THE APPLE OF GOD'S EYE
What comes to your mind when you think of God's mighty works among the children of Israel? Moses, the great prophet and deliverer who led his people out of bondage in Egypt, described his nation as “the apple of God’s eye”: "For the LORD'S portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye”(Deuteronomy 32:9-10). Hundreds of years later this sentiment was uttered again by the visionary prophet Zechariah: “for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8).
The apple of the eye is the pupil of the eye, which is very delicate and sensitive to any movement in its direction. The eye shuts instantly to keep it from harm. Because it is so indispensable, the pupil represents something that is cherished and protected. Thus, when we speak of someone as “the apple of our eye” we are speaking of someone who is very dear to us.
Careful students of the Bible recognize that as the apple of God’s eye, the descendants of Abraham are the focus of God’s covenant promises and providential care. It is the Jews who obtained favored nation status: "Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 10:15). This was done so that, through Israel, God’s plan of redemption would be carried out and all the world blessed with the knowledge of salvation: “I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6).
The survival of the Jewish people throughout their long history of warfare and persecution testifies to the fact that they exist under the shadow of God’s wings. What other nation could boast of God’s faithfulness, as does Israel, in spite of her disobedience to God’s law and rejection of her Messiah? Not surprisingly, the nations of the world to a large degree have been hostile toward Israel. Sinful men love what God hates and hate what God loves. What is perplexing, however, is the Christian opposition to the apple of God’s eye that has been part of the dark history of the Church and led to dire consequences for Jews.1 I speak of a theology that has justifiably earned the labels “theological anti-Semitism”, “Replacement Theology” and “Supersessionism”. This is the belief held by many evangelicals that the Church has become the true Israel of God because the Jews rejected Jesus. Consequently, they believe national Israel has forfeited God’s promised blessings but gets to keep the curses. Herman Ridderbos, a Reformed theologian, goes so far as to say, “The church, then, as the people of the New Covenant, has taken the place of Israel, and national Israel is nothing more than the empty shell (emphasis mine) from which the pearl has been removed and which has lost its function in the history of redemption.” 2 This is a remarkable statement, coming from someone with academic credentials. How can it be that the apple of God’s eye is now nothing more than a shell without a pearl, cast aside by God with no present or future redemptive purpose? Credentials notwithstanding, this is theology run amuck-- inherited from the early church fathers, the anti-Judaism legacy of Aurelious Augustine (354-430 A.D.) and unfortunately continued by many in the Reformed tradition, including John Calvin and Martin Luther. Such divisive and inflammatory rhetoric ignores the control of good hermeneutics, requiring that much of the Old Testament be allegorized. It also fails to see the self-attesting record of divine history regarding the Jews. As Ronald Diprose wrote: “Israel’s sin can no more thwart God’s future purposes for the nation than can the heavens be measured and all the secrets of the earth be known.”3 This thought pertains to the promise of Jeremiah the prophet: “Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:35-37).
“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” (Romans 11:1-2). Let us always remember that God’s love is a steadfast love (Psalm 107:1). He is the Good Shepherd who never forsakes his sheep: “Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock” (Jeremiah 31:10).
Dear friends, you can rest assured that “God is not man, that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19). The Lord has a glorious future in store for national Israel when Jesus returns during the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7). At that hour Israel will not only receive salvation but will dwell and prosper in the land that God has granted to her in the biblical covenants. This roots the issue under discussion firmly in the integrity of God’s character. The Jews may have missed Jesus the first time, but they surely will not miss Him when He returns: “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” (Romans 11:26,27). In his theological analysis of Christian literature, linguistics, and the Bible, Christian scholar Andy Cheung affirms: “when Romans 11:26 states that all Israel will be saved, it is best understood that ethnic Israel as a whole will receive salvation even if the promise is not extended to every single Jew.”4
What a comforting thought it is to all of us to know that God is faithful in all that He has promised. The offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the apple of God’s eye, will one day experience the true knowledge of God through the revelation of the promised Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the mean time we are to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6) and labor to seek the salvation of the Jew: “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (Romans 10:1). For both Jew and Gentile salvation comes only one way: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). This is the gospel of grace available to all men.
Brethren, let me add one final thought before closing. You need not feel slighted in the least when the Scripture speaks of God’s zeal and love for Israel. As God’s children and the spiritual seed of Abraham, the Lord Jehovah “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Our eternal glory has been assured and we shall receive an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and will never pass away (1 Peter 1:3-4). Praise God! Keep looking up, for our redemption draweth near. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
1 "Replacement theology has been the fuel that has energized medieval anti-Semitism, Eastern European pogroms, the Holocaust and contemporary disdain for the modern state of Israel”. See Thomas Ice:” What is Replacement Theology”? www.pre-trib.org (articles page).
2 Quoted by Horner, Barry: FUTURE ISRAEL: WHY CHRISTIAN ANTI-JUDAISM MUST BE CHALLENGED. (Nashville: B&H Academic, n.d.) p.xx
3 Diprose, Ronald: ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH; THE ORIGIN AND EFFECTS OF REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY. (WAYNESBORO: AUTHENTIC MEDIA, 2000.) p.12
4 THE JEWS, MODERN ISRAEL and the NEW SUPERCESSIONISM: Ed. Calvin Smith. (United Kingdom: King’s Divinity Press, 2009.) p.23
Posted by Tom Chesko at 9:22 AM