Teachings

Deafness and blindness

Rev. Willem J.J. Glashouwer - 11 December 2014

He said, “Go and tell this people: ” ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:8-10). It must have been a terrible assignment for Isaiah. After he saw the awesome vision of the Lord on His throne and survived it, Isaiah receives this assignment as a prophet. Preaching in order that just because of your preaching no repentance and healing will take place, but rather a progressive hardening, greater deafness and blindness. As a minister you cannot bear to think that just because of your preaching the congregation gets more deaf and blind. That your preaching increasingly hardens the hearts thus preventing conversion. As an assignment from God! The Lord closing the eyes and ears of your audience and giving them a heart of stone. God’s plan with His people Israel. Beyond comprehension!

Jesus quotes these words from Isaiah 6. He too concludes that Israel does not understand. The more He tries to clarify to His Jewish brothers and sisters what will be for the good of their shalom, their peace inwardly and outwardly, the less they understand. Deaf and blind. Yes, even increasingly so during, and because of His preaching. That is why He tells His disciples that He speaks to them straight out and directly, but to his bystanders in parables. “He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’” (Luke 8:10).

On His triumphal entry into Jerusalem He says – weeping over the city of Jerusalem – “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:42). And when something is hidden from your eyes, you simply cannot see it. Jesus knows this – and weeps about it.

And John writes in his Gospel in chapter 12:37-41 “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.” Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about Him.”

Paul has exactly the same experience. Passionately he proclaims Jesus in the Book of Acts. Time and again he goes to the synagogues first. But his Jewish brothers and sisters do not see it. They hear what he is saying about Jesus, but it simply does not sink into their minds and hearts. They do not (yet) receive the revelation about Jesus. And that is exactly what you need to be able to see who Jesus really is. When Peter suddenly can see in Matthew 16:13-17 and says: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus immediately replies: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” You can get the catechism explained from start to finish and backwards, your ears can hear the explanation of the religious doctrine, but if you do not receive revelation then you simply do not see it. It will not sink into your mind and heart.

At the end of the Book of Acts Paul too quotes Isaiah 6, just like Jesus. In a disputing fashion his Jewish visitors walk off. And Paul concludes by saying: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: ” ‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 28:23-31). The more he preached this to the Jews the more deaf, blind and hardened they became. Especially because of his preaching. They started to throw him out of the synagogue, throw stones at him and bring him to court. And Paul says: “Why, Lord? Why is it possible that I can see who you really are, but my Jewish brothers and sisters cannot? In fact they see increasingly less of it. While the Gentiles apparently have no problem with it, but flock in in large numbers?”

In Romans 11 Paul is allowed to see something of it. Jesus showed him that, because He appeared to Paul multiple times, not only on the road to Damascus. I have not learned my gospel from my brothers in Jerusalem – nor from Peter or John or James or one of the others – but the Lord Himself has revealed it to me, he says in Galatians 1:11-12. It wasn’t till later that Paul got in touch with the other apostles. And thus he is allowed to see in Romans 11:8 that God’s plan is behind this all. “GOD gave them a spirit of deep sleep, eyes to NOT see and ears to NOT hear, until the present day.” God is behind this all, Paul discovers. And in Romans 11:25 he says: “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery (and a mystery is something you cannot really understand), brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until…” “In part” for two reasons. First of all: there have always been Jews like Paul who did receive the revelation concerning Jesus. Numerically perhaps 0.90% of the Jewish people, but still. First fruits, to guarantee a big harvest that one day will come. But also ‘in part’ because pious Jews are not without God but have a blind spot for who Jesus is. And that has to do with the gentiles and will last “UNTIL the full number of the Gentiles has come in…”

One day the deafness and blindness will be lifted. One day their heart of stone will be replaced by a heart of flesh. Deaf and blind the Jewish people return to Israel, says Isaiah 43:5-8, to the Promised Land. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth— everyone who is called by My Name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.” Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf.” From the north and the south, from the east and the west. From over the entire world, the Jewish people return to the Promised Land, already for over a hundred years, in front of our very eyes. We are the generation who sees this happen – and the Lord even expects us to help them in this process or returning, in their making ALIJAH. But they are still blind and deaf. Blind for Who Jesus is and deaf the words of the Gospel. Many even lost their faith in God because of all the atrocities they went through during the last 2000 years, especially in the lands of Christendom. But that will change. Ezekiel 36:24-28 says:  “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you…” First restoration on a national level and then restoration on a spiritual level. But not before the full number of the Gentiles has come in.

Does the church see all of this? Or is she just as deaf and blind for what God is presently fulfilling to Israel in our days? Sometimes she falls on Israel in an untamed missionary spirit – the Jewish people are the most evangelized people on earth. Every church, congregation or denomination has its own mission to the Jews. Jerusalem alone has more than 1,400 churches and/or Christian presence, a mayor of Jerusalem once told me. As if the church says: God has hardened and blinded them and gave them deafness of their ears…, but we will get them saved! Or the church constantly criticizes Israel, blaming her for her unbelief and ranges themselves on the side of Israel’s enemies. Everywhere old and new forms of anti-Semitism revive, or rather hatred towards Jews. Christian forms of hatred towards Jews too. Resentment about Israel’s ‘stubbornness’. Israel’s ‘rigid’ politics. Israel’s ‘unbelief’. But who touches Israel touches the apple of God’s eye.

 

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Be spiritual watchmen on Zion’s walls. That is the mission for the church. How lovely are the feet of those who bring good tidings to Jerusalem. Who say: Your God rules, Your God is King, Isaiah 52:7. Who say:

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the nations, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1-3, NIV) THE LORD insists on His holy dwelling. The time to be merciful for Israel has come. But the light over the gentile world is failing. The powers of darkness are preparing for the final battle. We are approaching the outcome of world history. Does the church see all of this? We may reach out expectantly towards Jesus’ coming in Glory. To make all things forever new. Also for Israel.

No longer believing the Bible as the authoritative Word of God removes the firm ground under the special calling and election of Israel as God’s covenant people. Then Israel is regarded as an ordinary people. The non-Jewish Balaam knew better than that. In Numbers 23:8-9 he says: “…How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced? From the rocky peaks I see them, from the heights I view them. I see a people who live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations…” (Or, according to the King James Version: “…and shall not be reckoned among the nations.”) Looking down from the rocks Balaam sees the people of Israel in the desert. And says: it is a people who live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations. To put in modern day English: there are nations united in the United Nations and there is Israel. The nation of Israel plus the United Nations. But Israel not as one of the nations. A special nation, called to reveal the Most High in this world and to be a blessing for the other nations.

And then Balaam says in Numbers 24:9b: “…May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!” God’s covenants with Israel are solid as a rock. For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable, says Paul in Romans 11:29. And Deuteronomy 7:6-7 Moses says: “…For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession. The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your ancestors…”

May especially on the Israel Sunday the connection with the land and people of Israel be central and be glorified. May the truth of God’s Word be preached on all pulpits in the Netherlands and Germany. And on all the following Sundays too. Until He comes to make all things for ever new!

 

Everlasting Covenants

The Everlasting God has bound Himself to the land and the nation/people of Israel in order to bless the nations of the world and ultimately creation itself. He did so by making Everlasting Covenants with Israel.

 

Seven of these Covenants are everlasting, covered by an oath of God Who swore by Himself (Hebrews 6:13, Psalm 105:9, etc.) and they are without conditions. So they are not dependant on Israel’s behaviour for their fulfilment.

 

In light of the fact that God loves Israel and has elected the Jewish people for Himself, one can conclude that ‘love and marriage’, confirmed by oath, was and is the basis of God’s relationship with Israel. The idea of a covenant relationship between a god and a king or his people is well attested through the history of the ancient Near East. The idea of such a covenant was thus not at all foreign to the Israelites. It is therefore not surprising that the Lord used this form of relationship to give expression to His relationship to His people. This could have started early, because such an idea was well known in the ancient Near East from well back in the 3rd millennium B.C.

 

If one consults a concordance it will be seen that the word covenant is one, which occurs frequently in both the Old (‘berit’) and New Testament (‘diathèkè’). It is used of relationships between God and man, man and man, nation and nation. It is used in things temporal and things eternal. There are references to minor and temporal covenants in Scripture. Covenants are made by individuals with other individuals – Genesis 21:32; 1 Samuel 18:3. Covenants may be made between an individual and a group of individuals – Genesis 26:28; 1 Samuel 11:1-2. Covenants may be made by one nation with another nation – Exodus 23:32, 34:12, 15; Hosea 12:1. There were covenants in the social realm – Proverbs 2:17; Malachi 2:14. Certain natural laws were viewed as covenants – Jeremiah 33:20, 25. With the exception of these last, which were established by God, all of the uses above govern the relationships made between men. Two covenants are mentioned that are made between God and Noah: Genesis 6:18 and Genesis 9:8-17. It is clearly called a covenant, with a certain obligation on Noah and certain promises from the Lord. This is a prelude to biblical covenants where the promise plays an important role. After the Lord had chosen Abraham to be the father of the chosen people and the nation of Israel, the Scriptures contain references to seven major covenants, all of which were made by God with Abraham and his descendants, six un-conditional ones and one conditional one.

 

A covenant may be defined as follows: ‘A divine covenant is (1) a sovereign disposition of God, whereby He establishes an unconditional or declarative compact with man, obligating Himself, in grace, by the untrammelled formula, “I WILL”, to bring to pass of Himself definite blessings for the covenant ones, or (2) a proposal of God, wherein He promises, in a conditional or mutual compact with man, by the contingent formula “IF YE WILL”, to grant special blessings to man provided he fulfils perfectly certain conditions, and to execute definite punishment in case of his failure.’

 

It is to be observed that this definition does not depart from the customary definition and usage of the word as a legal contract into which one enters and by which his course and action is bound.

 

To safeguard thinking on this point, it should be observed that an unconditional covenant, which binds the one making the covenant to certain course of action, may have blessings attached to that covenant that are conditioned upon the response of the recipient of the covenant, which blessings grow out of the original covenant. But these conditioned blessings do not change the unconditional character of that covenant. The failure to observe that an unconditional covenant may have certain conditioned blessings attached to it, had led many to the position that conditioned blessings necessitate a conditional covenant, thus perverting the essential nature of Israel’s determinative covenants.

 

The Seven Un-conditional Covenants:

  1. The Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3)
  2. The Covenant of the Promised Land, or the Land of Israel Covenant, or the Land of Canaan Covenant (Genesis 12:1, 13:14-17, 15:18-21, Deuteronomy 30:1-10, Psalm 105:7-11)
  3. The Levitical Covenant (Numbers 25:10-13, Nehemiah 13:29, Jeremiah 33:19-23, Malachi 2:1-9)
  4. The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:10-16, Psalm 89, Ezekiel 37:24-25)
  5. The New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Luke 22:19-20)
  6. The Jerusalem Covenant (Psalm 132:13-14, Ezekiel 16:59-60, 43:1-7, Isaiah 2:2-4, 4:2-6, Isaiah 62 and 66:12-13; 19-21, Zechariah 2:2-5 and 12; 8:1-23; 12:1-9 (verse 6!); 14:1-21)
  7. The Covenant of Peace (Ezekiel 37: 20-28)

 

The One Conditional Covenant:

  1. The Covenant of the Law, the Covenant of Sinai, the Mosaic Covenant, the ‘Old’ Covenant. (Exodus 19:5, 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5.)

 

Deuteronomy 28:1-68, verses 1-14 has the formula ‘…IF you will do this’, then ‘I will bless’; verses 15-68 ‘…IF you will not do this, then ‘I will curse.’ One has to meet certain requirements in order to obtain the blessings of the Covenant of the Law. This Covenant was renewed on the plains of Moab (Deuteronomy 29:1-15), at Mounts Ebal and Gerizim (Joshua 8:30-35) and at Shechem (Joshua 24). This Covenant of the Law is the ‘Old’ Covenant. Paul discusses the difference between the ‘Old’ and the ‘New” Covenant in his Epistle to the Hebrews. After he has explained the beauty of the New Covenant, he concludes in Hebrews 8:13: “…By calling this Covenant ‘New’, He has made the first one [the ‘Old’ one, the Covenant of the Law] obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” The curse of the Law has disappeared, the wisdom of Thora will remain forever as a guiding light to life for Israel and the nations, compare for instance Isaiah 2:2-4.

 

The Covenants are to be taken literally, as a contract between two parties. And these Covenants are eternal, everlasting, and made with Israel that will therefore exist ‘forever’. So these covenants are in place forever. God cannot halfway change His mind about them.

 

Having understood God’s everlasting relationship with Israel, it has become obvious that any form of replacement theology makes God into a liar Who can halfway break an oath, change His mind and thus becomes an unreliable God. Replacement theology is not just a false theological concept, but it is a sin before God and created an atmosphere in the lands of Christianity in which over the centuries hundreds, thousands and ultimately millions of Jews could be despised, ridiculed, robbed, raped and murdered. The basis of any relationship with Israel and the Jewish people can be only true repentance and bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance in acts of true love and solidarity with the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

 

If God bound Himself forever to the Jewish people, to Israel – the Promised Land, the nation/people, the city of Jerusalem – should we as the Church not be connected to Israel and the Jewish people in the same way?

 

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