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God’s covenant with ancient Israel
God made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants to be His holy people to spread His truth to all the world (Genesis 17:9-27). And the Lord exhibited His great interest in Israel by delivering them from their slavery in Egypt (Deuteronomy 4:20).
At Sinai, the Lord said to Israelites, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2 also 2 Samuel 7:23; 1 Chronicles 17:21). And He said: “And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly” (Genesis 17:2 also Exodus 2:24).
The words, “Ye shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 11:20; Jeremiah 7:23; 11:4; 30:22), show the covenant relationship that Jehovah had with Israel. This covenant covered the entire plan to make Israel the spiritual center of global missionary efforts to reach the world.
God’s covenant with ancient Israel was conditional on their obedience to Him: “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth” (Deuteronomy 28:1 also Ezekiel 36:26-28). Had the necessary obedience been done, Israel’s residence in their land would have been permanent. From her would have gone out the message of peace to bring the whole world to the spirit of truth.
Sadly, Israel proved unfaithful, and accordingly lost the glorious calling that might have been hers, and the promises of the Lord’s covenant (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). Therefore, the Lord had no choice but to respect their freedom of will. And the nation was abandoned to the destiny it chose. And it received the curses of the Lord, “Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you…” (Deuteronomy 28:47,48).
Consequently, Israel’s enemies conquered them. Their kings were taken into exile with the people (Jeremiah 9:15, 16; 16:13). And even when they returned from exile they again backslid greatly and their apostasy climaxed when they crucified the Son of God the Savior of the world.
Before His death, Jesus declared, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37,38). Thus, the Jewish probation ended and they were finally utterly destroyed as a nation by the Romans in 70 AD.
When Israel, as a nation, didn’t choose to live up to her high privileges and to carry on her responsibilities, this special position was taken from her and given to the spiritual family of God on earth (converted Jews and gentiles), the Christian church, which Paul speaks of as “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).
And God’s covenant was transferred to the New Testament believers who became spiritual Israel and heirs of God’s promises (Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:6, 7). The “kingdom of God” was taken from the Jews and was “given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43). However, as individuals the Jews may be saved by accepting Christ (Romans 11:23, 24).
In the future, God’s plan to save the world would no longer be dependent on the literal nation of Israel. In the New Testament, both Jews and Gentiles are brought into the family of God through submission to Christ. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26, 29).
Every one regardless of race can be saved through faith in Christ. “by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4 also John 1:12, 13; 3:3). God’s grace makes the believers “sons of God” (1 John 3:1), and so “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), and receivers of grace and of all the family privileges (Galatians 4:6, 7).
The wild branches grafted into the cultivated tree
In Romans 11:11–24, Paul compares Israel to the natural branches of a cultivated olive tree and the Gentile believers to the branches of a wild olive tree. The natural branches (Israel) were broken off because of their unfaithfulness, and the wild branches (Gentiles) were grafted in (verse 17).
Paul is speaking of something that had already happened in the experience of many Gentiles. The grafting of a branch from a wild tree into the stock of a cultivated tree is a process that is normally never performed. Paul expressly states in v. 24 that the grafting of the Gentiles into the stock of Israel is “contrary to nature.” The call and conversion of the Gentiles was contrary to Jewish expectation. And thus, the Gentiles by their faith in Christ became the recipients of the promises of God’s salvation.
In His service,