I believe it was Inrush’s third year. We only attended on Sunday evening this year as we missed Saturday night. But what a couple of great messages. I can’t even remember the names of the pastors who spoke, but the first was the pastor at the church where the event was held, Forest Park Covenant Church. The second was from a church in Grand Rapids. The second message had more emotion, drive, and probably more conviction, but the first message is what I want to blog about.
The pastor preached from Isaiah 49:5-6, especially focusing on the phrase "too small". It was too small a task for God to simply restore, gather, and raise up Israel, God would also extend salvation to all Gentiles, in fact, to the very ends of the earth. The pastor commented how we are currently in that time of salvation of the Gentiles as the name of Jesus the Messiah is being preached throughout the nations all around the world. God had bigger plans than just saving one nation, he had in mind to save people from every tribe, nation, and tongue.
The pastor went on to draw some applications that many times we have a small view of God and God’s plans. We think we know what God wants to do, but God may be saying, "That’s too small a task. I’ve got bigger plans in mind." Given the overall theme of Inrush, to have Christians of all denominations, races, ages, and backgrounds participating, it seemed appropriate for the pastor to point out certain things that we could be doing except that our plans are much smaller than God’s plans. Poverty, racial divides, cultural diversities, worship preferences, all these things are standing in our way. It was a good message.
But I must point out something striking. If we believe that the salvation of the Gentiles is currently being fulfilled right now during the church age, then there are some implications for our eschatology based on the same passage, Isaiah 49. Incidently, we must believe this to be true since Paul and Barnabas quote this passage as being fulfilled in the preaching of the gospel at Antioch in Pisidia, Acts 13:47. The Isaiah 49 passage starts out by saying that the regathering, restoration, and raising up of the nation of Israel is too small a task for God. God intends to save the Gentile nations as well. But God will regather, restore, and raise up the nation of Israel after a time of equal opportunity for salvation to the Gentile nations. Since we are currently in the time of the extension of the message of salvation to Gentile nations, what must follow this current age is the regathering, restoration, and raising up of the nation of Israel.
These events are explained in Isaiah 49. The regathering of Israel is highlighted in verses 11-13. They will come from far, from the north and from the west. Then Zion has an objection. Since we are currently in the time when Israel is NOT regathered, NOT restored, and NOT raised up, Zion mistakenly thinks, "God has forgotten all about me." Not so. God is simply graciously extending the invitation to all the earth. It is impossible for God to forget about the nation of Israel since He has them engraved on the palms of His hands.
The restoration of Israel is partially explained in verse 18, but also all throughout Isaiah 40-66. Here in this verse we see that Israel, once temporarily forsaken as the wife/bride of the LORD, has now been restored and is clothing herself in wedding garments with the Gentiles being a part of the adorning ornaments. In fact, Israel will have so many children at that time that there will not be room for them.
The raising up of Israel to her place of prominence among the nations is mentioned in verses 22-23. This theme is not confined to this place in scripture, Isaiah 2:2-4 is a common passage to cite. But here in this passage we clearly see how Gentile nations, especially their rulers, will revere little Israelite children. These Gentile kings and queens will pay homage to the God of Israel and the nation of Israel. This subservient relationship to the nation of Israel is directly connected to the phrases "I will lift up my hand to the Gentiles" and [I will] "set up my standard to the people". The way of salvation will be interconnected with reverence for the restored nation of Israel. We see there will be vengeance for those who resist in Isaiah 49:24-26.
This is not to say that the nation of Israel as it is now is under divine protection from the LORD. However, God has a history of using Gentile nations to correct Israel, then once Israel repents, to take vengeance on that Gentile nation or empire. Midian, Ammon, Moab, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, anybody remember those stories? So I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side when God’s vengeance begins to work in the final stages when He begins to regather, restore, and raise up the nation of Israel. Of course, being a PreMillennialist, I believe these things lead us into a thousand year kingdom during which Christ rules with Israel having a preeminent position among the nations.
This post is also to show that supersessionism, the basic belief that the church has replaced the nation of Israel, has some weakpoints, unless it can concede that God is not through with the nation of Israel. This is where I am not satisfied with Dispensationalism or Covenant Theology. Even though I am currently reading Progressive Dispensationalism by Blaising and Bock and am finding many things I agree with, I am still not satisfied.
One other note: I think it is too cool that the three things that God says He is going to do in the future for Israel all begin with the letter R. I did add the "re-" to the word "gather", but that is the idea. Restore and Raise Up are both right there in Isaiah 49:5-6 along with the gathering. I sense a good Sunday School lesson brewing in the back of my mind. After all, I’ve got three points that all begin with the same letter. Pastor Brian would be proud.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman