Biblical Audio Commentary – Israel & the Church – Joined at the Hip in Apostasy
Although many believers today who ascribe to Replacement Theology want to pretend that the church should essentially be the entity referred to in the Old Testament whenever Israel is mentioned, perhaps they shouldn’t be so eager to make that substitution. Although I doubt that few of the pastors and people in this very large segment of the church have actually read the Bible with any real understanding – because they wouldn’t have this belief if they did; in fact, they couldn’t have it – they probably wouldn’t put themselves in this position if they truly comprehended the issues surrounding Israel. After all, if you’re going to take the glorious promises made for Israel and ascribe them to the church, then you should also be required to accept God’s condemnation of His Chosen People for their rebellion and disobedience, along with the extreme punishment that Israel endured for those actions and has going forward. Do you think the church would agree to that if it really knew what it was getting into?
The text in Jeremiah 2 provides us a good jumping off place for a comparison of – and parallels between – Israel and the church. In truth, what Israel did in those olden days is quite similar to what the church has done in these modern times. There are numerous similarities we can cite, and when we do, we may indeed see that this desire of the church to be the new Israel has severe problems associated with it.
Here is Jeremiah 2:2:
“Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord,
“I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.”
First we’ll notice that God is definitively speaking to Israel and the people who comprise it. Israel was very special to the Lord. In fact, a point we see elsewhere – such as in Jeremiah 3, the entire book of Hosea in the comparison of Gomer the unfaithful wife, and Ezekiel 23 with the parable of the sisters Oholah and Oholibah, – is that God the Father considered Israel as His wife. In those early days of marital bliss, Israel’s love for her husband was deep.
Can it not likewise be said of the church? Except instead of being a wife, the church is considered the Bride with Jesus our Bridegroom. One of the facts that the Replacement Theology folks miss is this dual relationship of Father and Son, Israel and the church. The early church when the apostles traveled and taught was quite strong. It had these great men of God to help it correct course if it went astray.
But time happened and as it passed, the world entered, flesh did what it inevitably does, and Satan twisted the knife. Jeremiah 2:8 vividly depicts this:
“The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the shepherds transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal
and went after things that do not profit.”
It seems like trouble usually starts at the top. This was absolutely what occurred in Israel’s case. The priests, shepherds, and prophets almost universally turned away from God in various ways. Her interactions with the Lord over the years have been one big roller coaster, to say the least.
What happened with the church? It had its ups and downs. Catholicism in the Middle Ages turned Christianity into a religion versus a relationship. That probably put a lot of people in hell. Rationalism took over in the church and Scripture was de-mythologized – meaning there was nothing supernatural about it. Basically, they put God in box and left Him there. Worse, scores of seminaries allowed Communism to invade them and became extremely compromised in their teaching of Biblical doctrine.
The various revivals brought the church back to life for a time, but it inevitably lost the sacred edge that attracted people to true faith. NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) teaching came in, New Age beliefs entered, syncretism like Chrislam – the melding of Christianity and Islam – confused things, and the church ended up doing a terrific imitation of Israel in its interactions with God.
Speaking of which, Jeremiah 2:11-13 gets to that point:
“Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for that which does not profit.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
Israel got quite skilled at this technique. The Bible is replete with the Lord chastising His people for allowing foreign invaders to influence them in this way. It was so bad that even enemies that Israel defeated, which had obviously useless gods, inspired Israel to adopt those idols. That’s crazy. Basically, the Jewish people declared: “These foreign gods are so feckless and without power that we want them for ourselves.”
That’s the attraction of adding such syncretistic practices as yoga into one’s devotional time and collaborating with Islam, since – as the ecumenical advocates say – the God of the Bible and Allah are the same god, don’t you know? There’s lots of other stuff the church does that makes us very much on a par with ancient Israel’s forsaking of God.
But, moving on to Jeremiah 2:17, we see there’s a problem with this outlook:
“Have you not brought this upon yourself
by forsaking the Lord your God,
when he led you in the way?”
Oh, oh. What’s God talking about? Jeremiah 2:20 starts focusing in:
“For long ago I broke your yoke
and burst your bonds;
but you said, ‘I will not serve.’
Yes, on every high hill
and under every green tree
you bowed down like a whore.”
Rebellion captures the heart of man in whatever era. For Israel the allure of sexual immorality practiced in the sylvan glades of the forest was too much to resist. Has man’s heart changed in 3,000 years? I don’t think so. Despite a personal Savior and the Holy Spirit who indwells us, our sinful DNA continues to propel toward sin. We have to resist it and will not to give in to temptation. Can it be said that every believer successfully does that?
Consider how God sees our desire to sin in Jeremiah 2:23-25:
How can you say, ‘I am not unclean,
I have not gone after the Baals’?
Look at your way in the valley;
know what you have done—
a restless young camel running here and there,
a wild donkey used to the wilderness,
in her heat sniffing the wind!
Who can restrain her lust?
None who seek her need weary themselves;
in her month they will find her.
Keep your feet from going unshod
and your throat from thirst.
But you said, ‘It is hopeless,
for I have loved foreigners,
and after them I will go.’
The comparison is that this lustful impulse within us is no different than the sexual compulsion of wild animals. In effect, man must go after anything foreign as long as it’s not the One true God. Israel did it, and I guarantee you that those in the church – both saved and unsaved – have the exact same urges. As they desire – so they do. This has led to a church riddled with LGBT idiocy, adultery, and fornication – exactly what Israel did in her pursuit of pagan gods.
Unfortunately, this waywardness leads to trouble which God has a pertinent comment about in Jeremiah 2:28:
But where are your gods
that you made for yourself?
Let them arise, if they can save you,
in your time of trouble;
for as many as your cities
are your gods, O Judah.
When God’s people get into difficulty because they’ve turned from Him to pagan gods with the worship of their idols, He reaches a point where He says: “You don’t want Me. Fine. Go plead to those useless gods you love so much and see how they respond to help you in your distress.” Why do we today think that God will react any differently to us than He did with Israel? If we’ve spurned Him like they did, why should we believe that won’t come back to haunt us?
The Lord asks a rhetorical question in Jeremiah 2:32 that has a tragic answer:
Can a virgin forget her ornaments,
or a bride her attire?
Yet my people have forgotten me
days without number.
Of course neither a virgin nor a bride would forget these special attributes, yet here we have people of God totally ignorant of Him. Believe me when I say this: it happened in Israel and it’s true today. We are a church that has lost its way and adopted any and every trinket and bauble the world has to offer.
The question then becomes: How does this affect God’s people, whether in those ancient days or now? Jeremiah 2:35 -37gives us that answer:
you say, ‘I am innocent;
surely his anger has turned from me.’
Behold, I will bring you to judgment
for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’
How much you go about,
changing your way!
You shall be put to shame by Egypt
as you were put to shame by Assyria.
From it too you will come away
with your hands on your head,
for the Lord has rejected those in whom you trust,
and you will not prosper by them.
There is nothing for this but righteous judgment. When God’s people anger Him with enough deliberate, persistent sin, there’s only one outcome. He will bring shame through His own rejection of such a people, and they will not prosper in any way.
Despite the repeated calls by prophets such as Jeremiah, God indeed delivered His own brand of judgment. In the case of Israel, God appointed foreign invaders from the north who overran and scattered His people.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus is God. Therefore, for the abominations of His people the church in our current time, He likewise will bring His peculiar brand of judgment.
It doesn’t have to be the same as what it was in Israel’s day, but it does have to be equally as severe. Can we really say that God will ignore this great accumulation of sin on the part of the church just because Jesus came?
If people accept Him and become believers, yet they subsequently choose to adopt foreign gods with their abominable practices, can we rightly say that there won’t be consequences this side of heaven? If God did not relent and ended up punishing Israel, won’t He – being of the same character – likewise punish His people in the church?
For those who want Replacement Theology to be true, I simply warn you that you may get more than you bargained for. God has a unique sense of humor. Sometimes if we want something badly enough – even though it isn’t good for us – He allows us to have it.
You say that you want the blessings of Israel because the church has replaced her? Fine. Just be ready to accept the serious judgments in the same manner that Israel received.
It may be that once God has shown you a parallel circumstance as Israel got, you may want to change your mind.