As we are all daily disturbed with the continual flow of news of ‘natural’ disasters, the tragedy of terrorism, the effects of plagues both real and threatened such as the ‘Asian Bird Flu’, the immorality and violence in our own neighbourhood, as well as worldwide, we must endeavour to lift up our heads, knowing that our redemption draws nigh. We must try to keep an even keel on issues, seeing them for what they really are—sure signs that the day of our redemption is drawing ever so near. Regarding the depraved moral state and wickedness in our society we endeavour to emulate the thinking of Lot: “For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” (2 Pet 2:8).

One of the most telling signs that the divine plan is steadily being worked out is the nation of Israel. As we look at the condition of Jewry throughout the world today we see a conglomerate mixture of people, all claiming Jewish ancestry but very diverse in backgrounds and ideologies. In the State of Israel we have a mixture of ideologies from political Zionism to orthodox and ultra-orthodox belief. There are the religiously motivated, the politically motivated and the materialistically motivated. There are those who, like the Pharisees of old, endeavour by legalistic extremes to ‘justify themselves’ in the sight of God. On the other hand there are those who have no interest in the God of Abraham at all. There are others who have been hardened by wars, terrorism and persecution into a state of agnosticism.

Jews in the land are threatened by the ugly international scene which is developing, as Islamic fundamentalist nations push harder and harder and agitate for their removal from the land of Israel, and worldwide anti-semitism is on the increase. Though they are all Jews and descendants of “the fathers”, generally they are totally ignorant of “the God of their fathers”. However this blindness which has happened to Israel will soon come to an end. It will remain “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” While we daily pray, “Thy Kingdom come”, we realise that “the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

We are living in the last hours of the times of the Gentiles, and as the gospel still goes forth to all people we witness it taking root in countries today, which a century ago we would have thought would remain in darkness until the Lord returned. This is a witness to that wonderful characteristic of Yahweh, His “longsuffering” to all—and how thankful we who live in these last days of the Gentiles should be that He is! Yet the day will soon dawn when our Lord will return and the fullness of the Gentiles will have come in. Then will commence the great task of opening of the blind eyes of the nation of Israel.

“Is there anything too hard for me?”

How apt is the description by Paul of Israel when he says that the Deliverer will “turn away ungodliness from Jacob”. Today we see a nation that once had the oracles of God but is now in utter disbelief, or entangled in schemes of religious legalism that can never save, based on the traditions of men. While claiming a special relationship with Yahweh, the whole legalistic system of works is a blatant form of “ungodliness”. In this state of “blindness” they “know not God”. If we did not have the words of the prophets to tell us how this transformation of the Jews will take place at the return of the Lord, we would be left in scepticism that it could ever be achieved.

Jeremiah, at the time when he recorded the wonderful prophecies of the restoration of the scattered nation (Jer 30–33), was given the instruction to buy a field to which he had the right of redemption. The whole exercise seemed to him an exercise of futility. For forty years he had warned his people that Jerusalem would be captured by Nebuchadnezzar, the city and temple destroyed, and the nation taken into captivity for seventy years. At the time he was told to buy the field the siege had already begun and the city was encircled by Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Knowing there was to be seventy years of captivity, and he was now over 60, he turned to Yahweh in prayer. The prayer is recorded in Jeremiah 32:16–25. We see his perplexity as he opens his prayer: “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jer 32:17). As we read through the prayer we see that it seemed to him a futile idea to buy a parcel of land. There seemed no hope that he would ever live there, considering his age and the prophecies he had just made of the coming captivity.

It is Yahweh’s answer that gives Jeremiah, the Jews and us all the assurance of Yahweh’s future purpose. He commences: “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (v27). From a human perspective it seemed impossible that Jeremiah would live to dwell in the parcel of land he had purchased. But with Yahweh there is nothing too hard. Before commenting on what Yahweh said to Jeremiah, we recall that this expression that nothing is too hard for Yahweh occurs in two other places. We first read of it when the angel answered the doubts of Sarah that, contrary to nature, she would have a child to Abraham (Gen 18:14). Here was the promise of the seed from whom the Jewish race sprang. The other occasion was when Gabriel answered the question of Mary, “How shall this be?” when she was told she was to be the mother of the Son of God (Luke 1:34–37). How true it is—“for with God nothing shall be impossible”!

So, in answering Jeremiah’s question about buying the parcel of land, Yahweh tells him that “fields shall be bought in this land, whereof ye say, It is desolate without man or beast” (v43). It will surely come to pass for Yahweh said: “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely” (v37). By inference Jeremiah is being told that he will be raised, accounted worthy and dwell in the land that he had purchased.

But that is not the main point of Yahweh’s answer to Jeremiah. He tells him that He will transform the hearts of Israel and turn them back to Him, which to Jeremiah would seem a totally impossible thing. For forty years he had spoken the word of Yahweh to them but to no avail—they had not repented. Here Yahweh tells Jeremiah that “they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me” (v38–40).

A New Heart and New Spirit

It is one thing to gather a people back to their former land; it is another to change their heart of unbelief to serve the living God. Ezekiel explains it this way: “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. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezek 36:24–28).

Here is the transformation that will take place to turn away ungodliness from Jacob. Through education they will develop a new heart and a new spirit. To accomplish this Yahweh has said: “I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding” (Jer 3:15). Those who respond to this education process will have “the spirit of the living God” written in “the fleshy tables of their heart”. They will realise that the new covenant is not a letter that kills, as they found the law to be, but one that enshrines a spirit that gives life (2 Cor 3:3–8). Those who submit will have those wonderful words spoken to them: “They shall be my people, and I will be their God”. And they shall worship Yahweh “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23–24).

As we consider this amazing transformation that we so long to see in the natural seed of Abraham, we truly can identify with the spirit of these things. In our own lives we have come to realise that nothing is too hard for Yahweh. We too have been called out of a godless age by the mercy of our God. We recall the words of Paul when he told our Corinthian brethren to “come out… be separate and touch not” the morally defiling things of this perverse world, and “I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty”, and again when he said: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor 6:16–18).

The transformation of Israel is a work that many of us, through God’s grace, have understood and experienced because we have been called out, turned from ungodliness, and now share in the blessings of the new covenant confirmed in the blood of our Lord.

This is My Blood of the New Covenant

One of the most familiar quotations we know are the words spoken by our Lord in the upper room as he shared the bread and wine and explained its significance: “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (Matt 26:28). It seems that the Lord was drawing largely upon the words of Jeremiah 31:31–34: “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… 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.”

Whilst it is true that these words do look to the transformation of Israel in the near future, we must see their application to ourselves also. We know that the Lord cited them in the upper room and Paul shows their application to the brethren in the epistle to the Hebrews (Heb 8:8–12 and 10:16–17). If we are to be involved, and possibly some of us will be, in assisting to instruct members of the Jewish nation concerning the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, it will be because we have really understood and appreciated the spirit of the new covenant. We will be there to witness the transformation of Israel because we have had the Word of God written in our hearts. We have delighted in His Word and let it be our guide, for we have been begotten by the “incorruptible seed which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet 1:23). We have willingly separated ourselves from this fleeting evil age and committed ourselves to Yahweh so that He is our God and we are His people. We have made it our dedicated business to “know Yahweh”, to know the character of His Name and manifest it as His children begotten by Him. We have understood that it is “life eternal” to truly “know” Yahweh as “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent” (John 17:3). We see our Lord as the complete manifestation of Yahweh’s character which we are striving to develop in our lives. And finally we will in humility and thankfulness accept that it was through the shedding of the blood of Christ that the new covenant was confirmed, and through him we have our sins forgiven. Each week we pause and solemnly reflect upon these things as we share the bread and wine.

We thank God that we have been grafted in to share “the root and fatness of the olive tree” and by this God has shown us His “goodness”. We know that “blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” We pray that very soon now “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” (Rom 11:26–27).

Let us pray for that day when Israel shall look upon him whom they pierced, realising that the one their fathers crucified was in fact their Messiah and King. They will then realise that the wounds in his hands are those “with which he was wounded in the house of his friends”. And so after Yahweh has refined them “as silver is refined”, and tried them “as gold is tried”, having purged out from among them the rebels, Yahweh will say of the remainder, “It is my people and they shall say, Yahweh is my God” (Zech 13:9). Then will be fulfilled the words of Paul when he said, “and so all Israel shall be saved”, for their Deliverer shall have turned away their ungodliness.