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Sweet Beulah Land

In Articles by Israel My Glory4 Comments

For centuries the Jewish people have waited for their Messiah to come and set up His Kingdom in Israel. At that time, Israel will receive the Land God promised them in perpetuity. That is when redeemed Israel will experience the fulfillment of all the promises in the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1–7) and become the center of worldwide worship and learning. Where in Scripture does God promise this wonderful existence for Israel? One place is in Isaiah 62, where Israel’s future glory is interwoven with the nation’s return from 70 years of captivity in Babylon in the sixth century BC. Like the preceding chapter, Isaiah 62 focuses on the restoration of Israel and the glory of Zion in the Millennial Kingdom. Verses 1–12 appeal to God to establish His Kingdom and to the Israelites to prepare for its arrival. PROMISED RESTORATION Verse 1 pulsates with emotion at the prediction of Israel’s restoration: “For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns.” Enthusiasm, excitement, and expectation reverberate at the good news that God will not “hold [His] peace” (keep …

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Isaiah’s Good News

In Articles by Israel My Glory1 Comment

You owe no taxes. You’ve fulfilled all your graduation requirements. Your biopsy was negative. Good news comes in all shapes and sizes, and when it arrives—particularly in the midst of trying times—it is usually like the soothing balm of Gilead. The words of Isaiah 61 may have affected the Israelites of the prophet Isaiah’s day the same way. After 39 chapters of condemnation and impending judgment, the remainder of the book of Isaiah presents good news, encouraging the Jewish people that their God will send them a Redeemer and exalt them, as He promised. A commentator has titled these chapters Redemption Promised: Israel’s Deliverance (40—48), Redemption Provided: Israel’s Deliverer (49—57), and Redemption Realized: Israel’s Glorious Future (58—66).1 In the middle of this final section, Israel receives the good news of its glorious future: the good news of personal release, national redemption, and divine righteousness. GOOD NEWS OF PERSONAL RELEASE Claiming the anointing of the Lord, the prophet2 (see “Identity Check,” page 25) announced good news for Israel’s people, who were poor, brokenhearted captives and prisoners: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent …

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The Man Whom God Knighted

In Articles by Israel My Glory0 Comments

There is no other biblical personality that has been made more the butt of harsh and unfair criticism than that of the patriarch Jacob, one of the ancestors of the Jewish race. He is depicted as the cunning supplanter and schemer who takes advantage of his guileless and trusting brother, Esau, and robs him twice of his birthright and parental blessing. Jacob is also accused of having acquired sheep and cattle by dubious means in his dealing with Laban, his father-in-law. Having painted him as a black character, his accusers thereupon proceed to point out that the Jews should have all the deplorable characteristics and moral ineptitudes of their ancestor. For centuries Jacob has been a strong weapon in the hands of the anti-Semites against the Jews. It is true that Jacob, perhaps more than anybody else, personified his descendants the Jewish people. Yet after a close scrutiny of his biblical record, we reach the conclusion that the Jewish people have cause to look back with a sense of pride rather than shame upon their patriarchal prototype. It is to the eternal glory of the Bible and a strong proof of its reliability and trustworthiness that the characters described in …

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Apples of Gold—January/February 2017

In Articles by Israel My Glory3 Comments

Here in Israel, most people know the Hebrew song “Ani Ma’amin,” or “I Believe.” In English, the lyrics read, “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah. I believe.” Recently I visited an ultra-Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem, where people were singing this song with great joy. As soon as they noticed me and saw I was not wearing traditional clothing and did not have a beard, they began to ask me questions. They live by the adage, “Respect him and suspect him.” “Are you happy?” one of the men asked. “I am,” I answered, “because it is written, ‘Whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he’” (Prov. 16:20). “Do you believe in the coming of the Messiah?” another asked. “There is a small difference between us concerning that question,” I replied. “You believe the Messiah will come, but I believe He will return.” Then they really became suspicious and called for reinforcements. Soon their rabbi arrived. He began to drill me with questions: “From which dirty book have you read this crazy news that the Messiah will return? Who has brainwashed you? We have never heard such idiocy.” His reaction was not new to me. “There is …

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Tapestry of Grace

In Articles by Israel My Glory0 Comments

“Why did so many people in the Bible do such bad things? Was it okay that God’s people had multiple wives?” a newly saved young mom asked me. I told her the Bible portrays humanity’s sinfulness honestly, but its record of such behavior does not indicate God’s approval of it. Hebrews 11, the so-called Hall of Faith, praises Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph as role models for trusting God. Yet, though men of faith, they were also sinners who displayed such moral failures as polygamy, dishonesty, and dysfunction in family life. That’s why the real hero on every page of Scripture is God—not man. The story of Jacob and Joseph shows how a gracious, loving God brings glory to Himself through imperfect people who are rich in faith. GOD’S CHASTENING Jacob loved Joseph more than his other children because he was the child of his old age and the firstborn son of his beloved wife Rachel. When Rachel died, Jacob lavished Joseph with favor, giving him the famous “tunic of many colors” (Gen. 37:3). Consequently, Joseph’s brothers hated him. Their hatred grew even worse when Joseph told them about his dreams, which implied they would someday bow down to him …

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Jacob’s Goodbye

In Articles by Israel My Glory1 Comment

People often approach their so-called golden years with an unrealistic view of the future. They envision themselves healthy and enjoying carefree living and financial security. Often, however, the opposite is true. And they are unprepared for the changes and limitations they soon will face. Jacob’s life was somewhat different. He faced trouble earlier but experienced many blessings with his family in the latter years of his life. JACOB’S PLIGHT Jacob’s early life was filled with scandal, intrigue, danger, suspense, family division, difficulty, and heartache—including the supposed death of his favorite son, Joseph, at the tender age of 17. But at 130 years old, Jacob was reunited with Joseph, who had become the most powerful man in Egypt next to Pharaoh. So at Joseph’s request and with God’s blessing, Jacob gathered all his possessions and family of 70 people and made the final pilgrimage of his life, leaving Canaan to live in Egypt. He took a great step of faith, trusting in God’s promise to forge his family into a great nation there (Gen. 46:2–4). Although Jacob and his sons were shepherds (a profession the Egyptians despised), Pharaoh nevertheless gave them the fertile delta region of Goshen. It was excellent land …

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From Bethel to Bethel

In Articles by Israel My Glory0 Comments

Many people struggle through life. Every day brings them something new to worry about. Some have illnesses. Others have grief. The list of troubles that shape a person is endless. The patriarch Jacob knew all about trouble, yet his struggles became God’s instruments to transform him from a supplanter to a servant. After working in Padan Aram for his father-in-law, Laban, for 20 years, Jacob knew it was time to go home: “Then the LORD said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you’” (Gen. 31:3). Returning to Canaan would not be easy because of the circumstances under which he had left. Jacob had stolen the blessing of the firstborn from his brother, Esau; and Esau wanted to kill him. Earlier, Esau had willingly given Jacob the birthright of the firstborn in exchange for a meal, showing how little he valued it. The brothers never communicated the entire time Jacob was gone, and Jacob was terrified of Esau. Meanwhile, Laban and his sons also were angry with Jacob, believing he had become rich at their expense. As Jacob’s flocks increased, Laban’s decreased until God had shifted all of Laban’s …

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Family Feud

In Articles by Israel My Glory2 Comments

God uses all types of circumstances to shape people. Sometimes they are favorable; other times they involve trouble, heartache, and grief. In the case of the patriarch Jacob, the Lord used 20 difficult years in Padan Aram, when Jacob worked for Laban, to mold Jacob’s character and draw him closer to God. Jacob was 77 when he left Beersheba and went to his mother’s family in Padan Aram. Yet his journey with God had just begun. For the next two decades, Jacob lived in Laban’s world. Previously, others served him. Now he served Laban. He learned to navigate life on his own, apart from his mother’s favoritism, and he matured into a man of God as he appropriated the blessings of the rich and unconditional covenant God made with his grandfather Abraham; reiterated to his father, Isaac; and then reiterated to Jacob himself. When Jacob first arrived in Padan Aram, he immediately fell in love with Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel. Jacob offered to serve Laban seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage, and the years “seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her” (Gen. 29:20). However, on the evening of the wedding, Laban …

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Apples of Gold—November/December 2016

In Articles by Israel My Glory1 Comment

It is now the time of year when Christians celebrate the Lord’s birth and sing, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come.” In Israel, people are celebrating the feast of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. [Editor’s Note: Hanukkah 2016 begins on Christmas Eve.] I recently visited an ultra-Orthodox synagogue-school and talked with some of the young men about Christmas and Hanukkah. One student said, “Hanukkah is a very holy feast.” The students listened carefully, but when I finished, one of them said, “That is a nice story. Now show us where it is written in the Bible concerning this one about whom you speak.” They thought they had trapped me since this verse does not mention Bethlehem. But then I read Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” The passage made them uncomfortable. They tried to divert my attention by discussing every word of the passage.“Those of us who celebrate Christmas have an everlasting light in our hearts. We celebrate the coming of the Lord, in …

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The Jewishness of Handel’s Messiah

In Articles by Israel My Glory1 Comment

My wife and I traveled to Great Britain in 2008. One of the highlights of our trip was our visit to London’s Westminster Abbey, which is described as “the parish church of the world.” Well-known for its burials and memorials, Westminster Abbey houses in its Poets’ Corner the burial place of the honored Baroque composer George Frederic Handel. Handel made his career debut with the opera Almira in 1705. He became a successful composer—famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. But in 1741, at age 56, he grew miserably discouraged as competition from other opera companies increased and drove him into financial disaster. Harassed by poor health, such as rheumatism and a form of blindness, his prospects looked bleak. At the premiere of Messiah, a friend called it a beautiful piece of entertainment. Handel replied, “Entertainment? It was written for education!” He recognized that God had given him his talent, and he desired to use it to teach God’s Word. So no one misunderstood his commitment, he only accepted donations for performances of Messiah; he never charged a fee. The Messiah’s Jewish connection is undeniable. The rabbis have a saying, “Coincidence is not a kosher word.” No Hebrew …