The Rebellion of The Rebellious
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It should seem somewhat odd to view Israel (and the Jews as a whole) as a rebellious people of the bible. We can read many places in the bible where God showed great favor towards this nation. Not because they were deserving but because God had chosen them according to his own purpose and will to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.
The blessings of God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage, provided for them through the wilderness, and finally brought them across Jordan to inherit the promised land of Canaan; the land of milk and honey. They were a nation that met with God in the holiest of holies by a high priest and could offer up their sins with the sacrificial blood of bullocks and sheep. God often times referred to Israel as, “My people”. What great benefits Israel obtained solely by the mercy of God that He should claim ownership over them! It entitled them to a land that was full of abundant blessings, and also to a God who would care for and protect the needs and fears of this great nation under their obedience to Him, and often times even in disobedience.
The Jews, it was told of Paul, had a great advantage over the Gentiles because unto them were committed the oracles of God. It was the Jews who first heard the voice of the one crying in the wilderness of Judea saying, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. And it was among the Jews, dear reader, that John the Baptist held out his needy hand and pointed to God manifested in the flesh while crying, “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”. For some 3 1⁄2 years the Jews were in the company of the greatest Prophet, Preacher and Teacher that ever would walk this earth; the Son of the living God.
Yet in all this they were called a rebellious and stiffnecked people. Though God protected and kept them they continuously rebelled and showed little faith towards God as their great deliverer. It often times took trials of persecution and bondage before Israel would repent and turn back to God. And then having turned back it was but seemingly a short time before they had forgotten the providence of God towards them. Their relentless unbelief and lack of repentance towards the Son of God proved to be their final demise. Jesus rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees by calling them hypocrites and saying, “For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead [men’s] bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:27).
It should be stated here that the nation of Israel portrays a clear image pointing to Gods chosen elect. It is an image that God has intended to use whereby the children of God, through the gospel, may better understand God’s sovereign power, grace, and mercy towards His chosen elect. In the 9th chapter of Romans the Apostle Paul makes a clear contrast in distinguishing between the nation of Israel and the elect by saying, “They are not all Israel, which are of Israel”. The Apostle Paul clears up any confusion that might lead one to assume that the entire nation of Israel is Gods eternally chosen people, yet this confusion still exists today among many worldly denominations. The former “Israel” signifies God’s elect and the latter “Israel” signifies the nation Israel. Just as circumcision of the flesh set them apart from all other nations, so too does the circumcision of the heart (regeneration) set God’s people apart from all other people. This point has been brought forward at this time so that we may consider ourselves while dwelling on the teaching set forth concerning the Jewish nation of Israel.
It should also be pointed out that God’s children (spiritual Israel) can and do fall from fellowship with their Father while walking disobedient to His will. We, as children of God (if I may be so humble as to include myself) have a great deal to do with the blessings that we receive here in this timely world. Psalms 78:41 states: “Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel”. While we cannot limit what God can do (for he is all sovereign and doeth according to His will in the army of heaven and amongst the inhabitants of the earth), we can limit Gods blessings and what he will do through our disobedience. Such was the case with Israel as spoken of in this verse. Yet this disobedience has no weight or bearing on Gods plan of eternal salvation. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2nd Tim.2:19). This is a call to God’s children for obedience in this life. But what a great lesson to be learnt in observing the Jews. It is most difficult for me when I consider and view the Jews and their lack of Faith and disobedience to God. For I too often times see myself amongst that rebellious crowd of people.
THE LAST SIGN
In the 12th chapter of Matthew we see a stern warning that Jesus gives to the leaders of the Jewish nation. Without God’s light the following verses bare little weight as to the severity of what Israel is being told. My prayer is that we may look at the proceeding verses and, with the help of Almighty God, gain a greater understanding and desire to follow God acceptably.
Verse 38-42 states, “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south, shall rise up in the judgement with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here”.
Many signs were given both in the Old and New Testament to establish God’s word. It wasn’t just the asking of a sign that caused Jesus to rebuke the Jews by calling them an evil and adulterous generation, but rather it was the reason that they asked. To ask for a sign so that one’s faith may be confirmed is vastly different than asking for a sign as an excuse for unbelief. Gideon asked God for a sign to confirm that it was God who was talking to him. Judges 6:17, “And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me”. God then showed Gideon a sign to confirm his belief (v.21). It was in verse 37 and 39 that God once again showed Gideon a sign, at his request, by using a fleece. By these signs Gideon’s faith was more confirmed that He would save Israel from the Midianites. In 2nd Kings 20, Hezekiah was sick unto death, but God heard his prayer, as he wept sore, desiring that he should live and not die. In verse 8 Hezekiah asks Isaiah, “What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the Lord the third day?” The Lord (upon Hezekiah’s request) answered by showing a sign thereby confirming to Hezekiah that his life had been spared.
The reason for the Jews asking a sign was in vain, they were ungrateful to God, wickedly despised so many of his wonderful works, and tried to find a reason that they would not have to hearken to Christ in obedience. James states in chapter 4:3,“Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss”. Israel’s request for a sign was not seen as a mode of establishing nor confirming that Jesus was the Son of God, For many times Jesus performed wondrous signs and miracles while in the presence of the Jewish nation, from turning water to wine, to healing the sick and the blind, to raising the dead. The 6th chapter of John illustrates this point well. The great multitude followed him, because they saw the miracles that he did on them that were diseased (v.2). It was after this that the same multitude (some 5,000 men plus women and children) was fed with five barley loaves and two fishes. At the end of this feast it was recorded that when the disciples gathered the fragments of leftovers, they filled twelve baskets full. But we read in verse 30, after all these miracles and healings had taken place, “They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? What dost thou work?”
O’ what a rebellious and unbelieving people they were. I have oft times had the thought, “If I were there and saw those wondrous signs surely I would believe!” But would I? Because of God’s love for us He has preserved his written word, a testament to God’s sovereign plan and mercy. This is greater than the signs that were shown in either the New or Old Testament. But do I believe his word that he has given us in place of signs? Is my faith strong enough to say, “thou art my hiding place, thou shalt preserve me from trouble, thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance”? I am afraid that many times I don’t lean on my Savior, I don’t trust in the Lord with all my heart like I should. For if I would then could I say, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou are with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”. My prayer to God is, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief”!
Christ’s response at the Jews request of a sign was, “There shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas”. This was going to be the last sign that Christ would show this rebellious nation. And not only was it going to be the last, but it was also going to be the greatest and if they would not believe on this sign then they surely would not believe on any. (v.40) “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the heart”. This great sign that Jesus spoke of referred to his resurrection from the dead; the greatest evidence that Jesus was indeed the Son of God come down from Heaven to redeem His people. Paul wrote in Romans 1:4, “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”. This, dear child of God, is the greatest gospel news that can be heard! For had Christ not risen from the grave, there would be no comfort for the weary and contrite heart. No cause to rejoice at the sound of salvation for ruined sinners, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching is in vain, and your faith is also vain” (1st Corinthians 15:14). We would yet be in our sins. But he is our Forerunner, our Great High Priest. He came to do the Father’s will and it was completed on Calvary!
Verses 41 and 42 of the 12th chapter of Matthew speak of the judgment that shall be used to accuse these unbelieving Jews. We will look at each verse separately then show how that both are combined to condemn the Jews.
Verse 41:“The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here”. Notice that Christ does not say that Nineveh shall judge the nation Israel, but rather, the course that Nineveh took at the preaching of Jonas shall be a comparative witness to the steps that Israel should have taken. And much more so, because a greater than Jonas was with the nation of Israel: Jesus, the Son of God.
Some comparisons can be made to show the contrasts between Jonas and Jesus:
- Jonas was but a sinner and typifies man of the fallen Adamic race. His desires did not include the will of God. Rather, in his disobedience he fled from doing Gods will by taking a boat going to Tarshish instead of heading towards Nineveh. Jesus is the obedient Son of God. He had no sin in him and his will was to do the Fathers will. “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34).
- Jonas was a stranger going into a strange land. The people of Nineveh had probably never heard or seen this man before. They had never witnessed any miracles or signs that were done that they might believe, as none were ever given. Jesus came unto his own people and his own received him not. The Jews had witnessed many of the miracles and signs that Christ performed in order that they might believe.
- Jonas only preached one message to them, and upon his arrival to Nineveh there was no introduction as to his character. Jesus preached among the Jews for some 3 1⁄2 years and was introduced by John the Baptist saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me” (John 1:29-30).
- Jonas’s message to Nineveh was one of judgment. There was no mercy or call to repentance based upon his message. His only words were, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown”. Christ’s message was one of mercy, which showed a way in which their conscience could be purged of dead works by repentance. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).
- Jonas showed no love for the Ninevites. When Jonas saw that God would spare that nation because of their repentance Jonas was displeased exceedingly, and was very angry. Jesus had a great love for Israel, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9). Jeremiah states that His love is from everlasting to everlasting!
Jesus was certainly a greater than Jonas. No doubt many more contrasts could be shown from a more able person, but the few that are set before us should be ample enough to prove the point. What a judgment to set before Israel! Israel had the advantage in every way, Yet through their rebellion they still could not bring themselves to repent of their unbelief. All they desired was to be shown another sign, and still even then they would not believe. Nineveh (a Gentile nation) repented in sackcloth, and sat in ashes when the message from Jonas had no repentance, but only condemnation. This was a nation that had never been blessed to hear the gospel of Christ, or witness all his wondrous works. They didn’t have the oracles of God, yet they had a great knowledge of God and his mercy planted in their heart. As a result of their repentance God spared them at that time. It would be the repenting Gentile nation of Nineveh that Jonas preached to that would rise up in judgment against this rebellious nation.
Verse 42: “The queen of the south shall rise up in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here”. Again, Christ does not say that the queen of the south shall judge the nation Israel, but rather, it shall be viewed to Israel as a comparative witness to the steps that they should have taken.
Some comparisons can be made to show the contrasts between the queen of the south with Solomon, and Israel with Jesus:
- The queen of the south came from a far country (the uttermost parts of the earth) to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Jesus came to the Jews and lived among them, yet they would not hearken to his great wisdom.
- Solomon was a man of wisdom but Christ is wisdom itself, “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom”.
- The queen of the south had no invitation to come to Solomon, nor any promise of even being welcome. The Jews were bidden to come to the Masters table and eat; yet they would not (Luke 16).
- The queen of the south, upon hearing the wisdom of Solomon, gave an abundance of riches to Solomon, more than he had ever received from anyone. The Jews, upon hearing Christ proclaim the great wisdom and truth that he was the Son of God, desired to crucify him.
- The queen of the south believed the report of Solomon when she had come to him and had witnessed for herself his acts and wisdom, for she said, “behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard” (1st Kings 10:7). The Jews would not believe Jesus though they witnessed many signs and miracles. John 12: 37 states, “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him”.
This too would be a great judgment that would rise up against the unbelieving Jews. For they had so many more reasons to believe on Christ!
Using both the contrasts brought forth with Nineveh and the queen of the south Christ sets the stage for the reasons that Israel would soon be without the blessings of God. It was because of their lack of repentance (realized by the example of Nineveh) and unbelief (realized by the example of the queen of the south) that would soon find Israel desolate and alienated from the fellowship of God.
THE END RESULT
The end result of the Jews disobedience was declared by Jesus in Matthew 23:37- 39, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, BLESSED IS HE THAT COMETH IN THE NAME OF THE LORD”. The Jews would no longer be the objects of Gods providential care as they had been so many times in the past. God had given them a judicial blindness, wherein they could no longer see. God said that they shall “bow down their back always” (Romans 11:10). They would no longer hear of a rest for the weary, but would be left to labor in their works. It was that self-righteous nature that seemed so prevalent among the Jews that prevailed over the doctrines of grace.
Luke 14:16-24 speaks of the Jews as a people that were bidden to a great supper. But none would come to dine, for they all with one consent began to make an excuse. It was then that the master’s servants brought to the feast the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. These, my friends, would gladly be taken in and would eat of the food that was prepared. But the master concludes in the 24th verse, “For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper”. The Jews would no longer be allowed in the Kingdom of God, they would no longer be feasting on the heavenly manna, which was Christ, the bread of life. Jesus said in Matthew 21:43-44, “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder”. It was Nineveh that fell on the stone. They came down (were broken) from their lofty heights and fell down and repented to God for their wickedness. But the judgment of God came down on the Jewish nation and they were ground to powder. Jesus said in Luke 21:6, “As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down”. The Jews, at the hand of Titus and his Roman soldiers, suffered a great destruction and massacre in AD 70. It is estimated that some 1.1 million Jews were killed and others were taken as slaves. Jerusalem with its great walls and towers was completely destroyed. Even unto this day the judgment of God is with the Jewish nation. For they know no peace or rest, but continue in war and strife.
So much could be said and shown concerning the judgment and final state of that Jewish nation. But as mentioned earlier, we must look to ourselves, who are Jews inwardly by the circumcision of the heart. We would indeed be foolish not to heed the warnings and end results that came upon that Jewish nation while here in this life. As stated earlier the eternal salvation of God’s chosen elect is sure and steadfast. No amount of disobedience will prevent one of God’s children from inheriting eternal life wrought by Christ. However, while in this life we have a great bearing on the blessings and fellowship that God will give us. We can limit the Holy one of Israel.
Hebrews 11:17-24 speaks of the gentiles being grafted into the olive tree because some of the branches (Jews) were broken off. But verses 19-21 states, “Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee”. O how we ought to heed these words lest we too should be broken off!
It is by the sovereign grace of God that we have been allowed to enter into the kingdom of God and shown his great mercy and love. It is here that we meet with God in fellowship with the saints. What a wonderful place of rest! May we see Christ as “a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land”. What a wonderful Savior is he! Hold him close to your heart and believe that he is God, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. For he is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.