Christ the True Centre of Israel
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."Matthew 23:37-39.Sorrow, love, and hope are blended in these words of the Lord Jesus Christ; and when we think of Israel, sorrow, love, and hope ought to fill our hearts. In the words I have read the Lord Jesus Christ describes the sin of Israel; He foretells their punishment; He also brings before us the glorious future which awaits them.
Jerusalem's sin, Jerusalem's punishment, and Jerusalem's restoration; these are the three subjects to which I desire to direct your attention for a few moments.
The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came down from heaven. He was born of the Virgin Mary, of the seed of David, and of the seed of Abraham, and He was a minister of the circumcision, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers (Rom. 15:8). When the Lord Jesus Christ looked upon Jerusalem the whole of the past history of the beloved city and of the beloved nation passed before His mind. How wonderful was God's condescension, and how great were the privileges which the seed of Abraham enjoyed! Separated from the rest of the world, set apart like a garden, God had chosen them to be His own property, witnesses for His greatness and for His glory. He had given unto them His word and His law; He had sent unto them His servants the prophets, who declared unto them His will. God called Israel His son ("Out of Egypt have I called My son"); and not merely does God declare that He looked upon Israel with paternal affection, but God says that He had chosen Israel to be His bride. He was to be their husband, and He claimed their love and their exclusive allegiance. This was the glorious position given by God to Israel, that Israel was to be the firstborn son of Jehovah and that Israel was to be betrothed unto Jehovah.
How marvellous were the manifestations of His power and of His grace unto this people! He brought them out of Egypt by showing great and manifold miracles; He led them through the wilderness for forty years, showing unto them continually that the Lord God of heaven and of earth was their God and their guide. Notwithstanding their ingratitude and sin, He removed nations before them in order to plant them into their inheritance; and the manifestations of His power and mercy were always renewed unto His people. God's mighty acts among Israel were exceedingly great and wonderful. Consider also what a treasure God gave unto His people in His Holy Word!the books of Moses and the writings of the prophets, in which God revealed unto Israel His will, His character, His purposes. And besides the Word which God revealed unto Israel, how beautiful was that law which He gave unto them! That law reveals His character and what God requires of man; and in this aspect it was a law of condemnation and terror. But the law was not merely a taskmaster to convince them of their sinfulness and of their guilt, and thus to lead them to a saviour; it was also a shadow of the good things which were to come. In the beautiful festivals and ordinances the manifold grace of God, saving, renewing, cleansing, and strengthening His people, was presented in striking and attractive symbols.
And not merely had God elected and chosen Israel and shown mighty acts unto them as His own favoured nation, and not merely had He given unto them His word and law, but only think of the wonderful men God sent unto them! Think of Abraham, the Father of the faithful. Think of Joseph, whom He brought into Egypt to be the saviour of his brethren. Think of Moses, the man who was meek and lowly in heart, who led the Children of Israel for forty years through the wilderness and was the mediator between them and God. Think of Joshua, who brought the people into the promised land. Think of Samuel, last of the judges, first of the prophets, who for so many years walked before the Lord in singleness of heart and in unfailing love unto Israel. Think of that wonderful David, the shepherd-king, the man after God's own heart, whose heart was not lifted up above his brethren, but who, after having passed through suffering, and shame, and humiliation, was full of tenderness and walked before God in His fear, and was a companion of all them that loved the Lord, ruling in Israel by the influence of his character, by the power of his love, and by the attraction of his piety. Think of Solomon in his glory and in his wisdom, and think of all the prophets whom God sent unto His people, teaching them, comforting them, and pointing out to them that the Lord God Himself would come down from heaven and have mercy upon His people, and make them the light to shine forth unto all the ends of the earth, and would bless in them all the nations whose habitations and bounds God had before ordained (Deut 32:8).
Think of how God dealt with Israel even when He was obliged to punish and to rebuke them on account of their unfaithfulness and of their transgression. See how tenderly God watched over them during the captivity in Babylon; how, even there, He sent unto them Ezekiel to testify of that God who was not limited by space, who, even away from Jerusalem and the place where His glory dwelt, was able to meet with His people and to be sanctified in the midst of Israel, and who would yet restore His temple in the latter day. And after the Babylonish captivity, when the hearts of the people were failing them on account of the many difficulties with which they had to contend, see how He sent unto them Haggai, and Zechariah, and Malachi, to sustain their courage, to cheer the faint-hearted, and to point out unto them the great and glorious day of the Lord, which would come upon them with high and manifold blessings.
And after a long period of silence, see how God still remembered His promise, and how He gave unto them John the Baptist, in whom Moses and the prophets, as it were, rose from the grave; in whom all the terrors of the law and all the sweet promises of the prophets were summed up, and were sounded forth again with greater power and with greater blessedness. "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John" (John 1:6). John the Baptist was a wonderful gift of God unto His people Israel; for he preached unto them that they had sinned, and that they had transgressed the holy will of God, thus summing up the message of the law; and with loving tenderness he exclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) thus summing up the testimony of all the prophets.
And, to crown all these benefits, God sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, who was the heir; and Jesus came in order to gather Israel unto Himself. He gathered them by His teaching. How wonderful was the teaching of Jesus! How well calculated to gather Israel unto Him! In every word that Jesus speaks you hear Moses and the prophets. It is the same voice that has been sounded forth to Israel from the beginning; it is the same doctrine; it is the same promise; it is the same manifestation of the divine character. And those who were searching the Scriptures, who were diligently reading them, who heard them continually explained unto themoh, how ought the words of Jesus to have attracted them and riveted them, and at once filled them with the conviction that here spake One who was taught by the same Spirit, who was manifesting unto them the same truths, and who was greater than any prophet who had preceded Him.
Think, again, of the mighty miracles that Jesus performedmiracles in which He showed that He was the lord of nature; converting water into wine; commanding the tempest, so that there was a great calm; walking upon the waves of the sea;miracles in which He showed that He was the great power of God, in order to heal all disease, and in order to restore unto man all that was lost by the Fall: rebuking the fever; healing those who were bowed down with many infirmities; opening the eyes of the blind; and giving hearing unto the deaf;miracles which showed that the Lord Jesus Christ had not merely the power to be the lord of nature, or that He was that perfect Man of whom the eighth Psalm prophesies; and not merely that He had power over all diseases, or that He was that perfect Physician of whom Isaiah says, "Himself beareth our infirmities," but also miracles which showed that in the invisible realms of evil spirits who had fallen from God, and who were now exerting their power over the sinful race of Adam, Jesus was acknowledged as God, and His word was immediately obeyed, so that the devils themselves trembled at the word of Jesus of Nazareth;miracles which showed that He was greater and stronger than that strong one who bound poor sinners in the iron fetters and chains of his cruelty;miracles to prove that Jesus had power over death, when He raised up that little maid by His simple and loving word, "Talitha, kumi"; and when He raised up that young man, the son of the widow; and when He raised up Lazarus, who had already been for several days in the grave;all these miracles were to gather Israel unto Himself.
But not merely did Jesus gather Israel unto Himself by His teaching and by His miracles; there was another power by which Jesus gathered Israel unto Himself, and that was BY HIS CHARACTER AND BY HIS LIFE.
Character and life of Jesus! The two are coincident: His life is His characterHis character is His life; Himself you see in His words and in His works. Different from all other men is Jesus. What Jesus is He speaks and He acts; what Jesus speaks and acts He is Himself. And when we think of that life and of that character of Jesus, how perfectly free is it from every spot and blemish, from every imperfection and onesidedness! How perfectly free is it from anything that might mar its beauty or its symmetry! Oh, what an astonishing influence that must have exerted upon all who saw Him! It is one thing to analyse it; it is another thing to feel the power of it. The simple people, whose power of analysis is, perhaps, very feeble and inadequate, are most impressed with the power of character and with the influence of life; that gentleness, meekness, unselfishness, patience, love, prayerfulness, which never for a single moment failed. It was manifest in everything that Jesus said and did; and there was a holy atmosphere around Him wherever He was.
But do I speak of freedom from any fault or imperfection? This is only a negative view of His character. In Him was not merely no sin and no guile, but in Him was every perfection. Whatever is beautiful and dignified, holy and noble, was manifested in Jesus; all virtue and all excellencies were shown forth in Him; by Him was represented the whole idea of humanity; all that God ever required of man, all that God ever expected in man, was realised and fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.
Thus it was by His words, by His miracles, and by His character and life that Jesus endeavoured to gather Israel unto Himself. But let me beg your attention to another point. What was the sum and substance of His words? What was the sum and substance of His miracles? What was the sum and substance of His life and character? Different from all other God-sent men, himself was the substance. All other prophets teach the truth, but they direct the attention and hearts of the people to wait for One who was to come and to fulfil their desires; but Jesus says not merely, "I teach the truth," but "I am the truth." Other prophets perform miracles in order that their mission may be thereby sealed, and that people may attach importance to the doctrines or to the commandments which they brought unto the nation; but in the miracles of Jesus He sets forth Himself as the Healer of the sick, as the Comforter of those that are cast down, as the Redeemer of them that are bound in fetters and chains, and as the Quickener of the dead.
And again, in the life and character of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is Himself that He shows forth; that He is that centre around whom Israel was to be gathered unto the glory of the Father. "I AM" is the name of Jesus; for notice, dear friends, Jesus exclaims, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together!" (Matt 23:37). Did ever any prophet in Israel speak of himself as the centre of the nation? Did Moses say that he wished to gather the nation around him? Did David, or any of the prophets, say that they were to be the centre of Israel, and that Israel was to find in them their rest and their peace? When Jesus says that He wanted to gather Jerusalem round Himself, He declares Himself Jehovah, the Lord God of Israel. Thus, when Jesus says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink" (John 7:37), He declares Himself to be Jehovah, the fountain of living waters. When Jesus says, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt 11:28), He declares Himself the Lord God omnipotent, who alone is able to fill the desires and to satisfy the cravings of an immortal soul. Ah, when they objected to Jesus they rejected the only centre around which Israel, around which sinners, can be gathered into life eternal.
And now, have you ever thought of it, what it was they rejected in Jesus? They did not reject anything in Jesus; they rejected Jesus Himself. There was no point of controversy between Jesus and the Jews; Jesus brought no new doctrine unto them. Jesus said, What the masters in Israel teach, what the Pharisees and the Scribes teach, is perfectly correct. There was no dogma which was the cause of controversy between Jesus and the nation; there was no new custom that Jesus introduced; He went into the temple every day, He observed the ordinances and the festivals of Israel. What was the subject of dispute and controversy between Jesus and the Jews? It was no doctrine, it was no innovation, it was Jesus Himself whom they rejected. There was an antipathy in them to the person of Jesus: it was the Lord Himself whom they hated, because they hated the Father; and therefore it was that Jesus was so pained when they rejected Him.
Why was Jesus pained when they rejected Him? When any of us are rejected, or when men speak against us, we may well examine ourselves as to whether it is for God's sake, or whether it is on account of some of our sins or our faults that we are opposed. But Jesus knew perfectly that He and the Father are one; that in all His doings and in all His sayings He was constantly abiding with the Father, and that it was because He was one with God, because He was the express image of His being, because He was the perfect manifestation of the character of God, that they hated Him; and therefore Jesus was pained, not because they hated Him, but because they hated in Him the Father, because He was the manifestation of Jehovah.
"How often would I have gathered thy children unto Me." Jesus was Jehovah, but they hated Him, and in hating Him they hated the Father; for the Jehovah of whom the Scriptures spoke, that Jehovah Himself who had brought them out of Egypt, who had led them through the wilderness, who had promised that He would come down and visit His people, He was before them, the countenance of God was beaming upon them, but they hated both Him and the Father.
And thus they rejected Him: and after they had rejected Him, Jesus sent down the Promise of the Father; and for years after the great Pentecost at Jerusalem Jesus was preached unto them in the power of the Spirit; but they hardened their hearts, and they resisted the Holy Ghost. This was the sin of Israelthe rejection of Jehovah.
And now what was their punishment? "Behold your house is left unto you desolate." We may take this expression in more than one sense. The most obvious sense is this: Jerusalem was destroyedthe temple, the beautiful house of God, was destroyed; sufferings and agonies unspeakable came upon the inhabitants of that chosen city. The nation was dispersed, and scattered among all the nations of the world. For eighteen centuries they have been without king and without priest. They have been away from their own home; and for many years they have suffered reproach and ignominy, persecution, and even death. Their house is left desolate.
But this is not the only sense in which the words are to be taken. Israel had another house besides Jerusalem, besides Palestine. It was not merely their national existence, but there was another habitation which God had given unto themthe habitation of Israel was the Word of God. Their house is left unto them desolate. They are still reading Moses and the prophets; they are still familiar with the outward form of the Word; but the house is desolate. They read the Bible, but the Master of the house is not seen by them. They read Moses, but He of whom Moses testifies is not known by them. They read the prophets, but the Messiah and His great workbehold, this is hidden from their eyes! They have a house, but it is desolate. "Your house is left unto you desolate."
Israel has another house; not merely the land, not merely the Word, but the law of Moses. That was the house of Israel. And oh, how beautiful is that house! how beautiful if they only saw the Messiah, if they understood the meaning of the Paschal Lamb, of the day of atonement, of all the various offerings which prefigured the Christ in His manifold character! But now Israel has its passover feast, and Israel has its day of atonement, and Israel tries as far as possible to observe the law of Moses; but their "house is left unto them desolate." They do not see the substance of which these things are the mere shadows. What a sad picture is the spiritual condition of Israel! What has happened unto them? There are two parties among Israel at the present day. The first are those who have added tradition unto the Word of God, thereby making it of none effect; because, as you well know, the Word of God is not a mechanical substance unto which you may add something, and expect it to remain still the same, so that you have the Word of God and something else in addition. The Word of God, if I may so say, is something chemical, and if you add something to it you altogether change its character. Tradition is not something added to the Word of God; but tradition is something put into the Word of God which immediately changes it, and renders it of none effect. Oh that we may learn from the Jews what has also happened in Christendomthat when Israel added unto the Word of God, it made the Word of God of none effect.
And then there is another portion among Israel who have rejected tradition; but in rejecting tradition they have also rejected the Word of the Most High. Can you not understand how this happened? The blessed Saviour says, "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me" (John 14:6). Now if Israel has rejected Jesus, how is it possible but that in the course of time they must become pantheists and atheists? What is it else but the necessary logic of history, that out of Israel apostate, that has rejected Jesus the Mediator, there has come forth Spinoza, the father of modern pantheism? It cannot be otherwise.
Whereunto shall I compare the history of Israel in their spiritual condition for the last centuries? They seem to me like the brothers of Joseph. The brothers of Joseph, the sons of Jacob, committed a great evil against their father, in that they took that innocent and holy child, and with cruel hands delivered him, as it were, unto death. And after they had committed this blood guiltiness they returned again unto their father Jacob; and it seems that after that time the sons of Jacob were conducting themselves outwardly with greater piety and with greater restraint than they had done previously; but between Jacob and his sons there was a dark and mysterious shadow, there was an obstacle, there was a separationthere was guilt upon their consciences. And what was that guilt? The blood of their brother Joseph. And thus it is with Israel since they crucified Jesus they have not fallen into idolatry, as they used to do before. For eighteen centuries they have kept themselves clear from idolatry. They are still invoking their Father, the Lord God. And yet a dark shadow rests upon Israel; there is a wall of separation between God and them; there is guilt, even blood-guiltiness, upon them. It is the blood of their brother Joseph, whom with cruel hands they nailed unto the cross.
Whereunto shall I compare Israel during the last centuries? I would compare them to the nation when they were at the foot of Mount Sinai, when Moses had been away for a long time speaking with God, and Israel, in their ingratitude and in their unbelief, said, "We know not what has become of Moses. Up, make us gods, which shall go before us " (Exo 32:1). And thus it is that unbelieving Israel for the last centuries has been saying, "We know not what has become of Moses; the old law does not suit us; the old ordinances of God are a great restraint upon us; the miracles and predictions which we read in the old book surely cannot be taken literally; therefore let us follow the spirit of the age; let us instruct ourselves in the wisdom of the Gentiles; let us make unto ourselves our own gods, that they may go before us."
Do not be mistaken: there are modern Jews who will speak of Jesus with the greatest respectwho will say that Jesus was a great prophet, that He was a wise man, and that it was only intolerance, bigotry, and fanaticism that nailed Him to the cross. Do not imagine for a single moment that these Jews are nearer unto the kingdom of God and unto the Lord Jesus Christ than the old blinded Pharisees. Neither do they see the divinity of Jesus, nor do they feel their sin. Ah, it is a sad thing, but the truth must be said, that notwithstanding all the punishments, notwithstanding all the sufferings, and notwithstanding all the reproach Israel had to bear, their heart is unbroken, their conscience is not touched; they have not acknowledged that it is on account of sin that these sufferings have come upon them; they have not acknowledged that it is on account of the innocent blood which they have shed that they have been scattered among the nations. Nay, worse than this; they boast, they glory, they say they have borne these sufferings with wonderful courage and intrepidity, and that now it is a merit which belongs unto them, and that for the sake of these sufferings which they have endured, they have a right to expect the special favour of God. This is the saddest part of Israel's punishmentthe blindness and impenitence which have come upon them.
But is it to be always so? "Your house is left unto you desolate. Ye shall not see Me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matt 23:38,39). Ah, do not you believe Israel has a great future? What think ye, is the Word of God to be fulfilled? Do you believe the Word of God? Do you believe what is fulfilled in the Word of God because it is fulfilled? or do you believe because God has said so? If you believe the past fulfillment because it is past, then you do not believe God. If you believe God, you must believe the future as well as the past. Israel has a great future before it. Why? Because God has said so. We remember His promises which He gave unto Abraham forty centuries ago, even unto the last words which came down from heaven from Jesus Christ in glory, when He called Himself the root and the offspring of David.
Throughout the whole of the Word of God one truth is written more clearly than any otherthat Israel is the chosen nation of God for ever; as Isaiah calls them, the "everlasting nation"; that although the circumference of God's dealings may enlarge, the centre always remains the same, and that the purposes of God concerning Israel can never alter. So God declared it unto Abraham; so God declared it through Moses; so God declared it through David; so God declared it through Isaiah and Jeremiah; so God declared it during the captivity, through Ezekiel and Daniel; so God declared it after the captivity through Haggai and Zechariah; so God declared it by an angel that came down from heaven unto the Virgin Mary, whom no one will accuse of Jewish prejudices; so God declared it through Jesus, the Lord of glory, Himself; so God declared it through Paul, the great Apostle of the Gentiles. All Israel shall be saved; and in Israel the light and the power of God shall be made manifest unto all the nations.
Dear brethren, look at it: God has chosen Israel. Is it a privilege to be chosen of God? Certainly. Then what has been the privilege of Israel? I have spoken of the privileges with which God favoured His people, it is true; but what is it that Israel has actually realised and entered upon? During four centuries these people were wanderers, or in bondage groaning under oppression, for forty years theirs was a wilderness life; again, they experienced four hundred years of wretchedness, bloodshed, and war, succeeded by a period of short glory under the earlier monarchy, which was again followed by a long down-grade of apostacy and chastisement, and seventy years' captivity in Babylon. After this four hundred years' subserviency and of silence on the part of God, ending in the birth of the promised Messiah, whose rejection by the nation involved it in suffering spiritual blindness and wrath to the uttermost these nineteen centuries past.
And is this to be the end of the history of Israel? Is this to be the termination of that wonderful building of which we can see little else but ruins? No; the time of Israel's favour is yet in the future; and when Israel shall return unto the Lord, then there shall be given unto them true repentance, and true faith, and a wonderful measure of love and of energy. Then it shall be unto them as it was to the brothers of Joseph; Joseph could not restrain himself any longer, and he was not willing that the Egyptians should be the witnesses of that emotion which was now filling his heart: but when alone with his brothers, he said unto them, "I am Joseph, your brother" (Gen 45:4). Then they were filled with consternation and contrition; terror and awe took hold of them. Thus shall it be with Israel; and when Jesus shall make Himself known unto them, "they shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn" (Zech 12:10).
But then Joseph spake unto them words of affection. He went round and kissed them, and fell upon the neck of Benjamin his brother, and Joseph wept and kissed him. And thus will it be when Israel shall be pierced to the heart and humbled to the ground. And while bitter tears of repentance and of shame shall flow from their eyes, the love of Jesus, the tenderness of Jesus, shall fill their hearts in a wonderful way. Like that man who went from Jerusalem to Damascus, who was proud in his own righteousness, and who was persecuting the disciples of Jesus; but after Jesus appeared unto him his whole being, his whole heart, and his whole life became a sacrifice unto Jesus Christ, the love of Christ constrained him; thus shall it be with Israel. Deep repentance, deep love, deep zeal, shall be given unto them; and then the words of the prophet shall be fulfilled; Israel shall not turn back. (See Ezekiel 37:23-28.) They shall be faithful and loyal unto God; they shall serve Him without backsliding; "they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isa 40:31).
And now we have spoken of ages past and ages to come; of the time when God first called Abraham; of the time when Israel rejected Jesus; of the time when Jesus shall appear again and comfort Israel. Behold, what a large period of time has passed before our mind! But faith knows no time. A thousand years in God's sight are but as a day when it is passed; a thousand years are unto faith also but as a day. Do you not remember from your own experience how faith annihilates time? How long ago is it since Adam fell? But when the Spirit of God brought it home unto your conscience, was not the fall of Adam to you a present reality? And did not you feel in your whole heart, mind, character, and body that Adam had fallen? How long ago is it since Jesus died upon the cross ? Martin Luther says, "It appears to me but yesterday, since Jesus was crucified."
"I can see Him even now,Now, when Jesus will come again I know not. Yet His coming is near. Faith knows no time. "Behold, He cometh!" We are waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven. Jesus saw it allpast, present, and futurein a moment, when He exclaimed, "O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" Eighteen hundred years have passed already; yet Jesus says, "Ye shall not see Me henceforth until ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matt 23:39). Glorious future!
With His pierced, thorn-clad brow,
Agonising on the tree;
Oh, what love, and all for me!"
Let us glance at a few prominent lessons. Let us, in the first place, adore the greatness of our God. How wonderful is God! how wonderful is His wisdom! how wonderful is His power! how wonderful is the symmetry of His plans! The times of the Gentilesbehold, it is only a brief parenthesis; it is only a short pause. The God of power and might will come again, and the miraculous history will be continued, and Jerusalem will be called JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH, "the Lord is there"; and from Jerusalem the power of God shall be seen unto all the ends of the earth.
Above all things, let us learn the love of God. Who could have sinned more than Israel? What ingratitude and unfaithfulness can exceed that of the chosen people of God? What greater crime could have been committed than the crucifixion of Jesus? Jesus loves them; the Father loves them; the Holy Ghost is still at work among them. Oh, let all poor sinners, let all "Jerusalem sinners," as John Bunyan has well called us, take courage, and learn to love the tenderness of Jesus, the grace and mercy of God.
Again, let us learn this lessonJesus-Jehovah is the only Saviour. That was a strange scene when the scribes and the Pharisees, the elders and the rulers of the Jews, and the great concourse of people, filled with rage, were gathered together. One man was the object of their enmity. But there was no anger on his countenance; his face was like the face of an angel. There was Israel gathered together; they had the Bible; they had the Sabbath; they had the temple; they had the law; but they had not Jehovah.
What was the great difference between that crowd and Stephen? Stephen looked up to heaven and saw the Lord, the Son of Man, standing on the right hand of God; and with open face beholding the glory of Jehovah, he was changed into the same image from glory to glory. Israel had the Bible, but no Jehovah, and therefore no centre; but Stephen, knowing God as the Lord above him, the Lord for him, the Lord in him, even Jesus, had found a centre; and absorbed in Jesus, he became like Him. He was a child of the Most High, and an heir of eternal glory. Oh, that we may learn that Jesus must gather us unto Himself; that Jesus must be the centre of our life; that Jesus must be the principle and strength of our life; that, thus forgetting ourselves and looking unto Him, we may follow on, until at last we are glorified!
While God has reserved the conversion of Israel as a nation unto Himself, He wishes us to have the same mind that was in Jesus. Ah, dear friends, if you love Jesus, if the mind of Jesus be in you, you will love the Jews; you will understand something of that sorrow which Jesus felt; you will understand something of those tears which Jesus shed when He wept over Jerusalem. This is the first thing, the foundation of all missionary effort: the mind of Christ must be in us, as it was in the Apostle Paul, who said that he had "great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart"; that he could wish himself "accursed from Christ for his brethren according to the flesh" (Rom 9:2,3).
If we have the mind of Jesus, then we cannot regard the mission to the Jews in the same light in which we view other missions. We send missionaries to China, or to India, or to Africa, and I bless God for all these enterprises of Christian love; but the mission to the Jew is not to be regarded simply as one among many other missions. It is the first mission; in the mind of God it has a priority among all missions. We send missionaries into all the world because God commands us; because it is the mind of God in Jesus Christ. But we know what is the mind of God concerning Israel, that Israel is beloved for the fathers' sake; that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance; that through our mercies, the mercies of the Gentiles, they are to obtain mercy. The Gentiles are continually to remember that God has not forsaken His people, and that God has not given up His old plan, but that God has His plan still before Him, and that, after "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24), there will come a period when the kingdom shall be restored to Israel, and when all the nations shall walk in the favour of God.
And see what encouragement the Lord our God has given unto us. We do not deny or conceal the special difficulties of the Jewish Mission. There is something peculiar in the blindness and hardness of heart which we meet in Israel. Yet God has His work among them. It was necessary for the Apostle, even in his day, to remind the Gentiles that even at that time God had not forsaken His people, but that God had a remnant according to the election of grace. There were tens of thousands (myriads) of Jews who believed in Jesus. The first fifteen bishops of Jerusalem, according to Eusebius, were all from the house of Israel. There never was a time when God had not some of His people brought unto the knowledge of Jesus. At the time of the Reformation it might have been expected that the zeal of God's people, being directed again to the Word, would go forth unto God's ancient people; but the understanding of the Reformers with regard to God's plans for Israel was not clear, and therefore we find that for a long time the Church did not think of Israel. During the last century God stirred up the minds of His people to think of the Jews, and to pray for them, and to send out to them messengers of grace; and during the last fifty years how many Israelites have been brought to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Success, however, is not the basis upon which we are to build. The Word of God is the basis. Love unto Jesus is to be the motive; faith in the Word of the Most High is to be our sustaining strength. Yet let us not forget to acknowledge with gratitude the wonderful encouragement which God has given us, and that He has brought out many from Israel to know, and love, and serve Jesus. While we are thus going on in this work, waiting upon the Lord, our own souls will be blessed. If I have one wish, it is this; I wish there was not a single assembly of Christians in this country, by whatever name they chose to call themselves, in which the subject of missions to the Jews was not brought before the people at least once a year. It seems to me that every church is defective, that every church is wanting in its duty towards God and in its duty towards itself, if it neglects this mission, which has a priority affixed to it by the Word of God itself. And I am perfectly convinced of this, that such a blessing would come unto the people themselvesan increased understanding of the Word of God, an increased realisation of that Eternal One with whom we have to do, and of the nearness of the coming of the Lord Jesusthat not merely would Israel be benefited by the prayers and efforts of Christians, but they themselves would praise the Lord for having been led to study the word of prophecy, and for having devoted themselves to this work.