Editors note: This is the entire article that is being printed in installments on the Friday Faith page written by retired Judge Donald West.
As a brief reminder to those who read the previous article, but for those who did not as well, its focus was on the God of Israel’s promises of blessings or curses upon His people, depending upon whether Israel obeyed or disobeyed the Commandments and Laws that God had given them through Moses on Mount Sinai just after their exodus from Israel (approximately 1446 BC); and then restated them again to Israel through Moses just prior to Moses death and Joshua’s emergence as Israel’s new God chosen leader. Joshua would then lead Israel’s invasion of the Land of Canaan (approximately 1406 BC), otherwise known as the Promised Land, or the Land of milk and honey; and eventually and permanently becoming identified as the nation of Israel which God initiated through the choice of Abraham and his descendants in approximately 2100 BC.
The God of Israel’s words of blessing are wonderful, Leviticus 26:1-13; Deuteronomy 28:1-14, and any people would rejoice with those blessings application to their national state; BUT it is His words of cursing to the people of Israel and as a warning to all succeeding generations, Jew and Gentile alike, that will put a brace in your spine for they are shockingly profound and ominously startling to those of us who don’t do a lot of reading of the Bible (which was me for decades). In our self-imposed ignorance we have erroneously created a God who primarily or wholly loves; BUT never (OK, maybe once; OK, maybe twice a long, long, time ago, way, way, way, back in the so very old Old Testament) really engages in anything which remotely speaks to discipline, chastisement, punishment, let alone destruction, desolation, and devastation in the New Testament. But that is a myth which is due and deserving of extinguishment immediately, if not sooner!!! In fact, both Testaments actually ooze with not just warnings BUT threats of calamity and catastrophe; and then repeatedly demonstrate this myth-bursting concept by the recording of their shocking fulfillment upon living Biblical and historical individuals, groups, and nations. And the leading poster child for these demonstrations was and is, of course, Israel. Remember that approximately four- fifths of the Bible is about this Chosen People!
Also, as a reminder, God through the Apostle Paul stated that “… all these things (that is some of the tragic, painful, and disastrous events in Israel’s history which Paul cites in this section of scripture) happened to them as EXAMPLES and they were written for OUR ADMONITION … I Cor. 10:1-13. We, Gentile and Jew alike, are encouraged to examine how God dealt with Israel by reading God’s Word; learn from Israel’s history and their tragedies of disobedience by reading God’s Word; and profit from it all for our earthly and eternal well-being; OR ignore, not believe His Word, and suffer the ultimately horrific, eternal consequences. God has given us these two Testaments as a personal invitation from Him to receive the infinite joy that comes through His Son Jesus Christ, BUT also as a warning of the alternative that will come from our neglect, contempt, dismissal, and rejection of His offer.
Here, ultimately, are our only two options to the greatest issue that will ever confront any of us: whether to accept or reject the God of Israel’s offer of forgiveness and love; it is as clear and simple as that. The apostle Peter puts it this way: “BUT the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word (Jesus), reserved for fire until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. BUT, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise (of judgment and punishment), as some count slackness, BUT is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish BUT that all should come to repentance. BUT the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” 2 Peter 3:7-10.
Nevertheless we (those who have already, or will in their earthly future, accept God’s offer of forgiveness through His Son Jesus) according to His promise (of forgiveness and eternal life) look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:13. GOOD BUTS and BAD BUTS!!! And they each have eternal significance.
So, let’s examine how God shifts from promises of blessings to promises of curses for Israel in these two already mentioned sections of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, and two previously unmentioned sections in the New Testament to be found in Matthew and Luke. And these blessings and curses all hinge on obedience and faithfulness, or lack thereof, to the God of Israel and the Messiah of Israel and all nations, Jesus.
“BUT if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, BUT break My covenant, I also will do this to you: I will even appoint TERROR over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart.” Lev.26:14-16. And that ladies and gentlemen, is just the beginning of a long recitation and thick catalog of the consequences of disobedience for Israel. Andit all starts with. a. BUT.
Deuteronomy 28 demonstrates exactly the same. God begins with His promises of blessings to Israel vs.1-14, which as in Leviticus are absolutely wonderful, BUT changes to dire warnings in verse 15: “ BUT it shall come to pass if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe very carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: ...” And it is a litany of suffering and pain, agony and lamentation, disaster and death. BUT that is not all that God has said about this matter, for the New Testament declares the words of the Son of God which faithfully echo the Old Testament prophets.
Having had His ministry rejected by the leadership of the nation of Israel because they had declared that His miracles were of the Devil; Jesus looked out with sadness over the city of Jerusalem and declared: “BUT woe (I counted Jesus’ use of that word “woe” at least eight times in this address among His use of the proceeding “complimentary” appellations of these men, the nation of Israel’s leaders) to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, Matt.23:13,14,15; blind guides,16; fools and blind,17,19; hypocrites,23,25; blind Pharisee,26; hypocrites and whitewashed tombs, 27; hypocrisy and lawlessness,28; sons of those who murdered the prophets,31; and serpents brood of vipers 33 (these words and phrases Jesus uses to describe those to whom He is speaking, who will personally conspire and collude to have Him executed by the Romans; and when Pilate, knowing that the chief priests and elders had delivered Jesus to him out of envy, gets cold feet in being part of their travesty of justice, they not so subtly warn him that he would be no “friend of Caesar” if he thwarted them in their designs; BUT, when he offered them Barabbas or Jesus in an attempt to side-track their efforts, these religious leaders encouraged the Jewish multitudes to call for Barabbas release and to destroy Jesus by crucifixion. In a final bid and futile attempt at obstruction of their desires, Pilate declares: “’Why, what evil has He done?’ BUT they cried out all the more, saying, ‘Let Him be crucified!’” And in resignation, Pilate declares that he, personally, is “’innocent of the blood of this just Person. You (the howling mob) see to it.’ And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’” Matt.27:15-26. And so it has been, and Israel’s blood has flowed in mesmerizingly frightful, copious, and calamitous quantities for two thousand years, and still to this day does! God had a word for Israel about these kinds of leaders when he spoke thus through Isaiah: “For the leaders of this people cause them to err, and those who are led by them are destroyed.” Isa.9:16.
And Christ, knowing full well all of this, prophesied: “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! BEHOLD your house (Israel, her land, her people, her city Jerusalem, and God’s Temple) is left to you DESOLATE …” 37,38. And consequently, the religion that calls for the destruction of the Jewish people and their nation Israel presently has its third holiest shrine, Islam’s Dome of the Rock, presently and triumphantly standing astride Judaism’s holiest site, Temple Mount!
The apostle Luke recounts a similar or the same event as follows: “Now as He (Jesus) drew near, He saw the city (Jerusalem) and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! BUT now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44.
That initial prophesied embankment by Jesus, one of many that would occur in the centuries to follow, would come just 40 years later, in 70 AD, when estimates of up to a million Israelites, including the children, would perish in that city as Rome restored control over a rebellious Jewish people. Rebellious against the Romans; BUT, especially tragic, rebellious against their God, and God’s Messiah for them and us all, Jesus!
For In 66 AD, approximately thirty-six years after Jesus uttered these words, Israel rose up in rebellion against Rome, was viciously crushed by the power of Rome’s legions, enslaved (for those who have enjoyed touring the Roman Coliseum, know that it was built to a great extent by Jewish slaves brought from Israel after the rebellion to Rome for “public works” projects), driven off and exiled from the land which God had given them in His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel and their descendants forever. Gen.12,15 and 17, for mere starters.
Only after 2000 years and a plethora of unimaginable and unmitigated sufferings would Israel finally reconstitute themselves as a nation in their God given land in 1948. Just, by the way, as God repeatedly declared to Israel and us that He would do in His Word. Jer. 3,16, and 23. For mere starters. “… For I am God, and there is no other: I am God and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done. Saying My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” Isaiah 46:9-10. For mere starters.