Getting It Backwards
Sometimes man in his supposed infinite wisdom gets things totally backwards. Genesis chapter 11 tells us of a time when all the inhabitants of the earth spoke the same language and were working together to make a name for themselves. They thought that if they built themselves a city and a tower that would reach unto heaven, they would retain their unity and strength and would not be “scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” Still today, there really is “no new thing under the sun” (Ecc 1:9). After the destruction of the world trade center, we are determined to “make us a name” and “build us...a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven,” by building the world’s tallest skyscraper. Ironically, their efforts to prevent being scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth actually caused God to do that very thing; “So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth” (Gen 11:8). The “wise” men of this world may think that they can outsmart or outdo God, but “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” (Job 5:13).
A similar situation happened in John 11:48. The Pharisees saw the gaining popularity of Jesus and that many people had believed on Him and they figured that, “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation” (Joh 11:48). Once again they had it completely backwards. Just the opposite was the case, if the Jews would not have rejected Jesus as their promised Messiah, then God would have likely stayed His judgment and the Romans would not have destroyed Jerusalem in 70AD. Jesus prophesied of their coming destruction because of their unbelief in Mat 23:37-38, “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! 38) Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”
Caiaphas, the high priest that year, proceeded to tell them that “Ye know nothing at all” (Joh 11:49), which was a pretty fair assessment of the Pharisees. Without even realizing it, he went on to tell them the absolute gospel truth, “Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (Joh 11:50). John explained in the two verses that followed what Caiaphas really meant, “And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52) And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (Joh 11:51-52). John clarified that the nation Caiaphas was really speaking of was not solely the nation of Israel, but rather the nation of God’s children, his elect from “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev 5:9). This is one of many examples in the Bible of people who were children of God, but had not yet heard the gospel and been converted.
Peter put this all together so beautifully in his first epistle. Peter wrote this epistle to God’s elect, “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2) Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1Pe 1:1-2). Peter tells them, “But YE are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (1Pe 2:9). Peter explains so perfectly, even using the same words, that Jesus died for a nation that was made up of children of God that were scattered abroad. Caiaphas thought he was speaking of the nation of Israel, but we know that God’s elect chosen people are “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16) and every person that is in Christ, regardless if they are Jew or Gentile, are Abraham’s seed (Israel) and heirs according to the promise, “And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:29). Paul tells us that “they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Gal 3:7).
If there is still any doubt that God’s elect people, both Jew and Gentile, are God’s Israel, then a quick comparison of 1Peter 2:9 and Exodus 19:5-6 should make this plain. God told Moses to tell the children of Israel, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exo 19:5-6). Is this not exactly what Peter told God’s elect, that they were: a royal priesthood (kingdom of priests), a holy nation (holy nation), a peculiar people (peculiar treasure unto me above all people)? “Now we (Jews and Gentiles, Gal 1:2), brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise” (Gal 4:28).
Unfortunately, many Christians today still have it backwards concerning the true Israel of God, deeming the natural seed of Abraham to be the true Israel and inherently children of God. But "...they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Rom 9:8)." All of us who are in Christ should thank God for putting us there and making us the “Israel of God,” a people who are the object of God’s grace, mercy, and love.