Sunday, August 12, 2012

On 8-19-12, Jeremiah 23:1-6; 33:14-18 will be our Adult Sunday School/Uniform Series/International Sunday School Lesson, herein is my commentary. This lesson is known by some as God Promised a Righteous Branch.

God Promised a Righteous Branch
Jeremiah 23:1-6; 33:14-18
International Sunday School Lesson
August 19, 2012

Jed Greenough

I think that there is a tendency by some Christians to take on a holier than thou attitude when it comes to the Jewish people.  They think that the Jews just don’t get it; they think that Christians have replaced Israel as God’s chosen people.  But this replacement theology couldn’t be further from the truth and one would have to ignore the scriptures in order to create this belief.

Israel was and remains the chosen people. This people served as representative examples of all of us before they were chosen, at the moment of their choosing and afterwards.  Also, as a manner of speaking, since we the church arrived, Israel has continued as an illustration of all those who remain outside the church but one day all those of Israel who remain will be saved.

Today’s scripture may be a prophecy within a prophecy and cover a time while they were in exile as some will say but with the Branch, meaning Christ, in sight, I will concentrate on their final return to God in the Last Days when Jesus returns.

Isaiah 4:2-6

“In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.”

Of course I could not consider today’s scripture without also considering the one from Isaiah above.  Don’t you long for them to not have to be the survivors as mentioned in verse 2?  I know that the Apostle Paul longed for this as he also referenced the remnant that remains by quoting Isaiah 10 in Romans 9 and we see the depths from which this desire boiled up as he begins chapter 10 of Romans.

Romans 10:1

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.”

Paul goes on to painfully explain to us what happened to them but that despite their obstinacy all Israel was not to be replaced and forgotten or forever to be excluded. 

Romans 11:1a

“I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means!”

Romans 11:11a

“Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all!”

We will not continue to quote the entirety of what Paul said but if anyone could come away with the idea that Israel was permanently lost and replaced they would have to be under a strong delusion if they cannot read clearly that they are not!  In fact Paul words it this way:

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved.”  Romans 11:25-26a

What about all the centuries of teaching that some have proffered that the church replaced the Jews?  Clearly Paul, who was a Jew and who wrote much of our New Testament did not teach this, nor did the earliest church which was begun by Jews.  Eventually, however as the church grew the percentage of Jews diminished and this teaching started to emerge.

What resulted was even hatred, in fact let’s give it a name in anti-Semitism that grew from within the church by those who had forgotten the words of Jesus when He spoke to the Samaritan woman in John 4 and said that, “salvation is from the Jews.”

Those that have taught that these scriptures in the Bible are in fact references to the church instead of the Jews have forgotten a tricky little fact especially if the scripture is prophecy.  And that is sometimes the words of God are not understood until after the fact and there can be more than one meaning.  If there was a replacement, it is that the church had replaced the Pharisees and teachers of the law and that in fact they now had the responsibility to both Jew and Gentile.  Those that now lead should have been very afraid therefore to read the words from our first two verses from today, “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD.  Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done.”  Jeremiah 23:1-2a

For Discussion:

1.      Note that the restoration in today’s scripture might have been fulfilled in part by the return from Babylon, but again we are seeing permanency with the Branch and 23:3 says they are being gathered from all countries.
2.      It isn’t hard to find resources such as certain study Bibles that will apply their comments toward the aforementioned verse to the church instead of to Israel.
3.      Replacement Theology is known by this and other names.  There are various views regarding this and it is well worth your effort to spend time in research.
4.      The name given Jesus today of the Branch should motivate you to continue the look we started in Romans 11 and read about the grafting in of branches.
5.      Discuss the damage that was done with regard to proselytizing Jews over the last 2,000 years due to anti-Semitism in the church.
6.      Read Isaiah 11.
7.      Discuss the importance of Jerusalem to God and with that in mind, 33:16 from today’s lesson.
8.      In today’s 33:16 Jesus is called “The Lord our Righteousness”.  Have you ever tried to ascertain how many names are given to Him in the Bible?
9.      Discuss 33:18 in light of Jesus.
10.  God will not break His word with regard to Israel:

Jeremiah 33:24-26

“Have you not noticed that these people are saying, ‘The LORD has rejected the two kingdoms he chose’? So they despise my people and no longer regard them as a nation. This is what the LORD says: ‘If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth, then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and have compassion on them.’”

Upcoming Adult Sunday School Class Commentaries

8-26-12:  God Promised to Be with Us Ezekiel 34:23-31
9-2-12:    Faith Calls for Perseverance Hebrews 10:19-31
9-9-12:    Faith Gives Assurance aka Faith is Assurance Hebrews 11:1-6; Psalm 46 or Hebrews 11:1-3, 6; Psalm 46:1-3, 8-11
9-16-12:  Faith Empowers Endurance aka Faith is Endurance Hebrews 12:1-11

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved

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