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Israel:  A Testimony To God’s Faithfulness And Grace

   By Horatius Bonar (1808 – 1889) 

    [Editor’s Note:  In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, there were a number of church leaders who understood from the Scriptures that God would one day regather the Jewish people to the land of Israel and bring them into salvation.  One of those men was a Scottish Presbyterian minister named Horatius Bonar, a contemporary and friend of Robert Murray M’Cheyne.  In the following two excerpts, written about 100 years before the rebirth of the nation of Israel, Bonar shares how the Lord’s past dealings with Israel, and the future dealings yet to come, are a testimony to the glory of God.  Keep in mind that at the time of these writings, the restoration of the Jews to the land would have seemed impossible from a human standpoint.]   

    …In Israel we see the standing memorial of Jehovah’s faithfulness and truth.  Nothing has failed of all that the Lord had said that He would do for or against that people.  All has come literally to pass.  The curse has gone forth against them and every threat has been verified.  Yet they are not consumed; they are still beloved for their fathers’ sakes, and preserved because of the covenant which cannot be broken.  Destined for brighter days, they still live on.  Monuments now of God’s righteous severity, they are yet to be more signal monuments of His unchanging grace, for “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20).  Tossed from billow to billow upon a single plank, they have weathered centuries of storm, seeing the mightiest vessels part anchor in the blast and go down at their side, themselves buoyant still.

    What faithfulness, what patience, what unchanging love.  In Jehovah’s eyes they are precious still; the chosen heritage of God.  Their covenant abideth sure; their promises are imperishable.  Were it not for these, where had they been?  Would they not have perished from the earth, and been found no more among the nations?  These promises held them fast, and bound their roots as “with a band of iron and brass” (Dan. 4:15), that they should not be swept away nor consumed.  Through all these 1800 years they have been sustained as a nation, emerging from the smoke and ruin of a thousand cities, rising out of the fragments of a hundred empires, surviving with mysterious tenacity of life, the storm, the sack, the massacre, the flood, the flame!

    The prominence given to Israel in the prophets forces itself vividly upon our notice.  Nay, history and prophecy are in this respect alike.  Such is Jehovah’s purpose; such is one of His ordained channels of self-manifestation!  “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!...” (Rom. 11:33).  Surely, if anything could humble us Gentiles, it would be the history of the destiny of the slighted Jew, to whom pre-eminence among the nations has not only been given for a few generations, but entailed by God’s own deed in perpetuity.  If any man might boast, the Jew might, more than all.  To him pertained the adoption, the glory, and the covenants, the giving of the law, and the service of God.  His was a more costly temple than heathen splendor ever reared; his a more august and sacred priesthood; his a nobler and more royal line of princes – the last of that line Jehovah Himself incarnate!  And was ever a nation so mysteriously indestructible?  Plunged into the furnace of Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Grecian, Roman tyranny, it has come forth unconsumed!  Kingdom after kingdom has crumbled down, or been swallowed up, yet Israel has walked secure over the debris of empires, or stood upon the fragments of each successive wreck, casting his wistful eye towards Jerusalem, the heritage of his nation, and the city of his soul.  And at no distant time shall the outcasts of Israel and the dispersed of Judah return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads.  “Beautiful for situation” (Psa. 48:2) shall it yet be seen, the joy of the whole earth, the city of the great King.

 Abounding Grace

    The Gospel is God’s testimony to Himself in words.  Israel’s history is God’s testimony to Himself in facts.  The Gospel is God’s declaration, that where sin abounded, grace has much more abounded.  Israel is the living, visible testimony to this marvelous and blessed truth.  The history of Israel, in every age, preaches to us the Gospel of the grace of God.  It is throughout, the story of man’s sin and of God’s deep and untiring love.  It shows us how manifold, how endless are man’s ways of sinning; and it shows us how still more manifold and endless are God’s ways of forgiving, and loving, and blessing.  Israel is the nation in which man’s rebellion, man’s wickedness, man’s hatred of God, are brought most clearly out to view, that we may know what man is, even in his best estate, and with every possible advantage; that we may know what a human heart is, even when plied with every motive to love, and serve, and honor the God that made it.  And Israel is also the nation where the good that is in God is ever showing itself superior to the evil that is in man; where love and grace are ever rising immeasurably above, and stretching inconceivably beyond, the uttermost extent of human enormity and sin.  This surely is profitable.

    All things pertaining to her, Scripture connects more than in any other case, with the glory of God and the kingdom of His Son.  Round her prophecy clusters; and upon her the world’s destinies seem to hinge.  Her past exaltation, her present abasement, and her future glory, are all most mysteriously woven into the world’s history, past, present and to come.

    Many a nation has been blessed because they favored Zion; but who has ever prospered that injured her?  He who has touched her has touched the apple of God’s eye.

    These are things which the church of Christ ought especially to remember, whether she considers the duty of favoring those whom God favors, or the blessings which He promises to those who seek their peace, or the curses with which He has cursed those who have trodden them down.  Whether, then, we call to mind the blessings which have flowed from them to us, and see how their fall has been our rising, or observe the manner in which the prophets represent the future destiny of the world as hanging upon the fortunes of Israel; let us look on Israel as God looks on her; let us understand the deep meaning of her history.

    – From Prophetical Landmarks (1847).


    …[In the Jewish nation] God hath written out His glorious name.  In them we see every divine perfection of God in act and operation.  Omnipotence raised them up at first.  Then countless multitudes sprang from a dead stock.  Wisdom watched over, led, and guided them unerringly.  Faithfulness fulfilled every promise uttered by the lips of Truth.  Goodness established them in a noble land, gave them holy laws, divine and instructive institutions, sent among them prophets to teach and priests to minister.  Holiness warned, cautioned, and exhorted them, and when they rebelliously spurned the gentle tones of love, how long did Patience bear with them; how often did God return and have mercy on them!  When they had sinned “till there was no remedy” (2 Chr. 36:16), when they had consummated the rebellions of fifteen hundred years by that unparalleled deed of blood, the murder of the Son of God, then, after some yet further lingerings and invitations of insulted Mercy, did awful Justice arise, bared his arm for the battle, and dealt down terrible and crushing blows.  Now, in what state do we behold them?  Even as they have been for the last eighteen hundred years, like a burnt mountain on the plains of Time, scorched and splintered by the lightnings of divine wrath.  As one tremblingly sings: 

    “Salted with fire, they seem to shew
    How spirits lost in endless woe
    May undecaying live.” 

    Yes!  Still preserved in all their woe, still unconsumed by all these penal fires!  Preserved!  And for what?  Let a thousand glorious prophecies answer!  That burnt mountain shall yet be clothed with lovely verdure; down its sides shall streams of living water gush; and the nation that now witnesses to the truth, justice, and power of God, shall sing till the ends of the earth shall hear and echo back the song, “Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He delighteth in mercy” (Mic. 7:18).  Then shall the Lord be glorified in Israel, and all His attributes displayed in full-orbed glory, when He shall call her “Hephzibah,” and her land “Beulah” (Isa. 62:4).  What a glorious Jehovah is the Lord God of Israel!  With what awe, what love, what fear, what hope, should His character, as exhibited towards Israel, inspire us!

    – From The Quarterly Journal Of Prophecy, 1955.