The Question of the Tribes
James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. (James 1:1)
There may be some intended spiritual meaning in James’ address to “the twelve tribes,” but as a genre, epistles do not use typology or figurative meaning without assuming the believers understand what it means. Epistles are to be taken literally.
We know that in the Book of Luke, Anna was from the tribe of Asher (Lk. 2:36). Most Christians have the wrong idea that the ten northern tribes—all but Benjamin, Judah and the Levites—went into captivity. That is wrong; the faithful people in Israel came south to Judah. (Faithful people will always leave unfaithful churches before the judgment of God comes on them.) They kept their identities in the Second Temple period all the way to the time of Jesus.
In the UK there is a something which dates back to at least the last century called “Anglo-Israelism.” My grandparents were from the north of England, except my one grandmother was from Glasgow, and I saw some people who were into Anglo-Israelism in Speaker’s Corner. They had all this British stuff in Hebrew, one of them titled, A Covenant with Man. They said things like, “The lion of Judah is the lion of Scotland,” and insisted that the Aran Islands were named after Aaron. They had it all worked out. (When they found out my little daughter was born in Israel and her family was from Scotland and England, they thought she stepped out of a flying saucer.)
This stuff has absolutely no biblical or anthropological basis whatsoever.The Celtic peoples, anthropologically, are not one nation, but many: there are the Cornish, the Scottish, the Welsh, the Irish. These have certain things in common. But then the other inhabitants of the British Isles are Anglo-Saxons—Germanic people. Then come the Normans—Vikings who came to France and then to England. There are several strata of people who invaded Great Britain and were integrated into the British identity over a period of many centuries. The British are not one, pure stock—they never have been. So how do people come up with something like Anglo-Israelism? There are no Semitic features. Just go to the people with Semitic features: Yemenites, Jews, Sephardic Jews, Arabs, pure-blooded Bedouins—do they look like people from England? No, they do not. It is almost as ridiculous anthropologically as it is theologically.
The twelve tribes are the basis. In Revelation 4 we see the twenty-four elders, who would seem to be the twelve apostles and the twelve sons of Jacob. But there is all manner of spiritualizing away the literal basis of the twelve tribes.
If we were to go to the Domitian Abbey (a Roman Catholic place) in Jerusalem, we would see three concentric circles cut up like a pie into twelve sections. The innermost section contains the twelve names of the sons of Jacob, the twelve patriarchs of Israel, one for each tribe. The second circle, corresponding to the twelve sons of Jacob, represents the names of the twelve Apostles. Can you guess what is in the outermost circle? The Zodiac.
I get letters and email from people who think I have it all figured out. Believe me, I do not have it all figured out. I may know what people say about things like Revelation 7—I know the prevailing opinions, but I am not going to teach something unless I am sure that the Holy Spirit has shown me what it means. “What about the 144,000?” they ask. “How will God know which tribes modern Jews belong to? Do you think they are literal Jews?”Obviously the sealing of the 144,000 Jews replays the story of Ezekiel going into the city and marking the anointed of the Lord before the judgment came (Eze. 9:48).
And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: From the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed. (Revelation 7:4-8)
Now let us look at Revelation 14:
Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. (Revelation 14:1-3)
I am not going to try to figure out every detail here because I do not know. I can tell what other people say about it, but I will say this: the first steps toward figuring it out is not Revelation 7, it is not Revelation 14, it is the final prophecy of Jacob in Genesis 49. We cannot even be positive, and there is good reason to believe, that these two groups of 144,000 are not even the same. One group seems to be in heaven; the other seems to be on earth. The description of one group is not even the same as that of the other. One would seem to be physical Jews, the other does not necessarily seem to be.
The Issue of Identity
Anthropologically, who knows? Arnold Fruchtenbaum is right: the main thing is the sign of the covenant in the giving of Jewish identity. Jews have intermarried for centuries. The entire Khazar Empire converted to Judaism. Arthur Koestler and others agree that the Ashkenazi Jewry came from the Khazar Empire converted to Judaism. There were massive conversions to Judaism in Morocco. The whole Yemenite Empire converted. The way that Constantine ostensibly converted to Christendom is the same thing that happened in the Jewish world. We would be hard pressed, anthropologically, to make a case. Jewish identity has to do with covenant.Yes, there is the issue of the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but how does it define “sons”? Some of those sons of the twelve tribes were born of servants. We cannot even directly trace the genetic line in that sense. It has to do with covenant.
How do we determine what tribe somebody is from? My wife’s family name is “Segal.” They were a priestly family, assistants within the Levites. People with names like “Levine,” “Cohen” and such we can speculate go back to those priestly families, but who knows? I do not know, and I am very skeptical of people who say they have it all figured out. What I know is that in order to figure it out, it does not begin with Revelation; it begins with Jacob.
We looked at what Jacob meant personally, now we are going to look at what he means for Israel and the Jews as a nation.
Again, Jacob was someone always looking to attain the blessings and purposes of God according to his natural reason and ability. What have the Jewish people done? They have tried to attain the blessings and purposes of God according to their natural thinking. Talmudic Judaism, founded in Yavneh by Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai is not the Judaism of Torah, it is another Judaism. It is a product of the natural minds of rabbis, developed in the centuries afterward by rabbis like Akiva and others, ultimately redefined as an Aristotelian religion by Rambam, and even more on top of that.
Jews know they are different from other people, but they do not know why. It is amazing that Alan Ginsberg, the Jewish poet in America from the Beatnik era (I used to see him around New York), tells us that his religion is Buddhist. Jewish people do not believe in God and they go to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and begin crying even though they do not know why. They know something, but they do not know what it is they know and they do not even know why they know it. Think of unsaved Jewish people as a kind of backslider. The new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31 was not made with the Church, it was made with the house of Judah and the house of Israel. They have broken that covenant. Jewish people are backslidden.
When somebody is born-again and they fall away from Jesus and go back to the world, their life can never be normal or the same. They can never fit in because they know that something is wrong and it is eating away at their soul all the time, but they can know what it is; Jewish people have something eating away at their soul but they do not know what it is. The rabbis think they know, but the rabbis disagree with each other as to what it is. I was talking in Hebrew for a couple hours to the president of the Orthodox rabbis in Leeds, witnessing to him. He is a wonderful man with plenty of knowledge but so little understanding.
Jacob would always scheme to try to attain the purpose, the blessing, the heritage by his devices, and it always blew up in his face. The Jews are the same way. No matter what the Jewish people try, it will blow up in their face.
Their Return to the Land
There is only one place the Jews will be a secure people, and it is not in the land of Israel. The Jews were never secure in the land of Israel; it is a strategically vulnerable place. The biggest Jewish disasters before the Holocaust, undoubtedly, were the events of AD 70, and Bar Kochba’s Rebellion in the second century which were the equivalent of the Holocaust. Proportionately it was the same kind of mass extermination, and yet it happened in their own land. The only place the Jews will be secure is in the palm of their Messiah, Yeshua.
So much for these organizations claiming that the Jews can be blessed by bringing them back to Israel. The Jews are not going back to Israel for the blessing of God. There is only one way God can bless the Jew and it is the same way He can bless anybody: through faith in the Messiah. Because the Gospel was available to them first, the consequences for rejecting it are on them first (Rom.9-11). Jeremiah 30 talks about “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7). The Jewish people are back in Israel for “the time of Jacob’s trouble.”
The metaphor or figure of the night in Scripture is a metaphor for the Great Tribulation. Jesus said He is coming like a thief in the night (Rev. 15:15). “Watchman, watchman how far is the night?” (Is. 21:11). “Is he coming in the second watch of the night or the third?” (Lk. 12:38). “Work while you have the light for night will come when no man can work” (Jn. 9:4). The wise virgins have oil in their lamps to see at night (Mt. 25:1-13). When did Jacob get the blessing? At the end of the night (Gen. 32:24-32). The Jews are wrestling with God, and they will continue to wrestle until the end of the night.
“Jacob” vs. “Israel”
The Bible speaks of the difference between “Israel” and “Jacob.” Throughout Scripture we see “Israel” and “Jacob” used at various times. Why does God call them by both names? “Israel” has been broken. Galatians speaks about the Israel of God—even Gentiles are grafted into Israel by faith in some sense, but “Jacob” as the Jewish people is an unbroken state—their name has not been changed yet. The blessing is for “Israel,” the promise is for “Jacob.”
God cannot break His promises to the Jews, but they are never going to get it while they are still called “Jacob”; they are going to get it when they are called “Israel.” When God looks at Israel, what does He see? “Israel?” No, He sees “Jacob.” When God looks at Jewish believers He sees “Israel.”“Jacob” personifies and typifies the Jewish people. His whole, long life, in a sense, was in preparation for this one factor. It was not Abraham who began Israel, it was not Isaac who began Israel, it was Jacob—the twelve tribes came from him. Jacob gives a prophecy in Genesis 49 for the Jewish people whose ratifications encompass the whole of history and of God’s salvific plan for everybody, especially the Jews, extending all the way to Revelation. When we read through the Scriptures about the histories of the tribes of Israel and what they did, what happened to them and what they experienced, it winds up with what Jacob predicts. His whole life is a preparation for what he is going to do at the end of it, and the entire history of Israel is a preparation for what they are going to do at the end of it. His whole life was in preparation for this prophecy. Everything is a preparation for this one climactic event. It probably took him minutes. Imagine God preparing someone for ten minutes of ministry? But on that ten minutes of ministry hinges the entire future of prophetic history.
For the Jewish people it will be the same thing. The promises are for “Jacob,” the blessings are for “Israel.” At the very end it is all going to make sense to the Church and to them and then they are going to know why. The first Christians were Jews, and no matter what we hear, the last Christians are going to be Jews. God is going to bless the Church through Jewish people before He comes; everything is preparing the world for that. This is the framework for looking at Revelation 7.
Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come.
“Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob;And listen to Israel your father.“Reuben, you are my firstborn;My might and the beginning of my strength,Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence…
(The first shall be last and the last shall be first.)
Because you went up to your father’s bed;Then you defiled it—he went up to my couch.
(The sins of the father are passed on to the sons; only the cross can break that.)
“Simeon and Levi are brothers;Their swords are implements of violence.
(This is because of what they did when they slaughtered those people, even though their anger had a good basis for it.)
“Let my soul not enter into their council Let not my glory be united with their assembly;Because in their anger they slew men,And in their self-will they lamed oxen.
(If they were people who were simply motivated by righteous indignation, that would be one thing, but when it is someone with a bad temper just looking for an excuse to do something, that is something else. They are just getting the excuse they need to go on the warpath. The great heroes of war are the people who prefer peace.)
“Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;And their wrath, for it is cruel.I will disperse them in Jacob,And scatter them in Israel.
(And, again, the history of the tribes is played out.)
“Judah, your brothers shall praise you;Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.Judah is a lion’s whelp;From the prey, my son, you have gone up.He couches, he lies down as a lion,And as a lion, who dares rouse him up?
(It talks here about the lion of Judah.)
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah,Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes,And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.He ties his foal to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine;He washes his garments in wine,And his robes in the blood of grapes.His eyes are dull from wine,And his teeth white from milk.“Zebulun will dwell at the seashore;And he shall be a haven for ships,
(That is the land they received when the land was appropriated by Joshua.)
And his flank shall be toward Sidon. “Issachar is a strong donkey,Lying down between the sheepfolds.When he saw that a resting place was goodAnd that the land was pleasant,He bowed his shoulder to bear burdens,And became a slave at forced labor.“Dan shall judge his people,As one of the tribes of Israel.Dan shall be a serpent in the way,A horned snake in the path,That bites the horse’s heels,So that his rider falls backward.For Your salvation I wait, O LORD.
(It all points to Jesus.)
“Issachar is a strong donkey,“As for Gad, raiders shall raid him,But he will raid at their heels.“As for Asher, his food shall be rich,And he will yield royal dainties.“Naphtali is a doe let loose,He gives beautiful words.“Joseph is a fruitful bough,A fruitful bough by a spring;Its branches run over a wall.The archers bitterly attacked him,And shot at him and harassed him;But his bow remained firm,And his arms were agile,From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),From the God of your father who helps you,And by the Almighty who blesses youWith blessings of heaven above,Blessings of the deep that lies beneath,Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.The blessings of your fatherHave surpassed the blessings of my ancestorsUp to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills;May they be on the head of Joseph,
(He typifies the Messiah.)
And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.
(Again, he typifies the Lord.)
“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;In the morning he devours the prey,And in the evening he divides the spoil.”
(The early Church somehow saw this as a prophecy about Paul, that in the morning he would be a ravenous wolf and devour the prey the way he first persecuted the Church, but in the end he would divide the spoil by bringing blessing and provision to God’s people after his conversion.)
All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him.
(They play out the history of what he said.)
Then he charged them and said to them, “I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site. There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah— the field and the cave that is in it, purchased from the sons of Heth.” When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people. (Genesis 49:1-33)
Right at the very end of his life is when he puts it all together. Everything he experienced clicks at the very end. So it will be with the Jewish people. The Holocaust, the inquisitions, the Old Testament, the New Testament, the early Church; Genesis 49 will have its ultimate fulfillment somehow in Revelation 7 and 14. At the very end it comes together, but not until every prophecy is fulfilled in Genesis 49.
The Importance of Judah
The most important prophecy is Judah. Except for that situation with Tamar (Gen. 38), Judah was always unique and good. Judah led the tribes through the wilderness in the configuration around the Ark. It was Judah who asked the brothers to have mercy on Joseph the way Jesus asks for mercy on the Jews (Gen. 37:26). They said, “Let His blood be on us and our children” (Mt. 27:25), and Jesus says, “Father, forgive them” (Lk. 23:34).
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah,Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,Until Shiloh comes, (Genesis 49:10a)
Over and over the Talmudic literature tells us that “Shiloh” is the Messiah; Judaism understands it that way.
“Thus says the LORD,
‘Write this man down childless,A man who will not prosper in his days;For no man of his descendants will prosperSitting on the throne of DavidOr ruling again in Judah.’” (Jeremiah 22:30)
King David was from which tribe? Judah.
In Samuel it is promised to David that he shall never lack somebody to be on the throne of David (2 Sam. 7:16). Judaism has a big problem explaining how God is keeping this promise today. (Anglo-Israelism actually tries to say the throne of David is the royal throne of Great Britain and the monarchy. This came about when there was a Jewish prime minister; that is when this whole thing got going in the last century.) There was always some kind of Davidic line, even when it got interrupted during the Captivity. The Hasmoneans, who were the descendants of the Maccabees tried to make the High Priest John Hyricanus the king. But the king needed to be a descendant of David, priests the descendants of Aaron. The last person who by any claim could be a descendant of David had to end in the reign of Herod the Great. Herod’s mother was a Moabitess and he was some kind of convert to Judaism, but culturally he was basically a Roman rather than a Jew.“
The scepter shall not depart from Judah…until Shiloh comes.” Well, the scepter did depart from Judah—Shiloh had to come. The Messiah had to come before the end of the Davidic lineage.
God promised David he would always have a descendant on the throne. Is there one? No, unless in the heavenlies Jesus is reigning on the throne of David as the New Testament says (Heb. 8:12; 12:2). Either Shiloh—the Messiah—has come and is reigning on the throne of David spiritually (and He will reign again in the Millennium), or else the Bible is wrong and God has broken His promise. This is one of the passages where the Talmudic literature and the rabbinic commentaries go to great length to get around. They have a big problem, but we know there is a Lion of Judah, and He ison the throne of David right now, and the house of David will be restored to Jerusalem and Jesus will reign there.
Reuben, in Genesis 39:3-4 is the firstborn of Leah, but he gets last preference; the favored place goes to Joseph, the priestly privilege to Levi, the kingly right to Judah. He is “uncontrollable as water” which undoubtedly relates to his sin with Bilhah (Gen. 35:22). This is exactly what happened. The firstborn did not get the kingship, the favor, or the priestly lineage. “The first shall be last” (Mt. 19:30).
Simeon and Levi are the second and third sons of Leah. They killed repentant men near Shechem (Gen. 34), so they got no inheritance. The Levites were given none and the Simeonites were swallowed up by Judah: “I will disperse them in Jacob” (Gen. 49:7). Historically, that is what happened. It was literally and actually fulfilled just as predicted. The problem was that they killed men after the men repented. (When we find Christians holding grudges and not forgiving people who have genuinely repented, that is going to hurt them more than it is the people they are not forgiving.)
Judah is the fourth of Leah. Judah received praise and “Yehuda” has to do with that. He had birthrights and exceptional dignity, holding the kingship and the line of David before the scepter departed when Shiloh came. (This is referenced in Ezekiel 21:27.)
Then there is Zebulon, the fifth by Leah, who “will dwell as the seashore” (Gen. 49:13). Jacob mentions the Sidonians, and in Judges 5 we see this later being fulfilled in the Song of Deborah in the struggle against Sisera.Issachar is the sixth son of Leah and he is a “chamor”—a donkey: “a strong donkey” (Gen. 49:14). He is strong and stubborn, but submits to the yoke: “He bowed his shoulder to bear burdens” (Gen. 49:15). He is too lazy not to. He submitted to Canaanite invaders rather than fight; that was Issachar.Then there was Dan, the first son of Bilhah, a snake of poison causing terror (Gen. 49:16-18).
Then there is Gad, the first son of Zilpah, Leah’s maid. Jewish lineage was not just Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through their wives Leah and Rachel. The idea was of one having Levirate marriage or surrogate motherhood. God was not simply interested in physical lineage; He was interested in faith for all descendants of Abraham. Gad is a troop or military company meaning a mighty military company that trusts in the Lord.
Asher is the second son of Zilpah relating to wheat, wine and oil.Naphtali was the second son of Bilhah and “gives beautiful (or “godly”) words” (Gen. 49:21), as we see in Judges 5:18 in the character of “those who love not their lives unto death” (Rev. 12:11).
Then there is Joseph, the first son of Rachel, who is “a fruitful bough” (Gen. 49:22) and, like “Ephraim,” means “doubly fruitful.” “Joseph” means “God shall add or be added.” He has the characteristics of Jesus, a bubbling fountain that is a fountain of life. In verse 22 He is the Living Water; in verse 23 His words are like arrows; in verse 24 he is the Shepherd; in verse 25 He is helped by the Father—“El Shaddai.” And other things associated with Jesus happen to him. The things that happen to Joseph are played out in Jesus.
Again, the early church saw Benjamin as being fulfilled in Paul (Gen. 49:27). Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, as it is hinted at, did not cross the Jordan. They wanted God’s blessing here. The tribes existed even after the ten northern tribes went into captivity.
Application of the Tribes’ Characteristics
Believers come in the characteristics of those tribes. There are believers who come in the characteristics of Joseph. Some people are so much like Jesus they are models for the rest of us. When we see Christians like that, their brothers do not like them. One reason why godly people are not very popular in the Church is because they are seen as wimps, which they are not, but when I see someone more like Jesus than I am, I get convicted.There are believers like Benjamin: they do not begin well, but they end well.There are believers like the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh: they want a good, comfortable life here and now in this world; they do not want to cross the Jordan and go to war, not realizing they are going to have to cross the Jordan and go to war anyway, but losing the blessing that they could have had if they did not want an easy ticket.There are so many believers who want an easy ticket.
These sons of Jacob teach about us. Jacob knew his sons. He was able to predict what they would be like—not just the Jews, but the other twelve elders, those descended from the Apostles in Revelation 4.
It is interesting what happens when we put together the names of these sons in Hebrew. Dan was left out because Dan worshiped the golden calf and acted in a judgment that was not of God, which is made up for because of Joseph having two sons to make the same twelve. “Judge not, lest you be judged” (Mt. 7:1).“
Judah”—“a confessor or praiser of God.”
“Reuben”—“looking at the son.”
“Naphtali”—“striving with or wrestling with.”
”“Simeon”—“hearing or obeying.”
“Levi”—“clinging to or joining to.”
“Zebulun”—“the home of the growing place.”
“Joseph”—“shall be added.”
“Benjamin”—“the son of the right hand.”
One of the differences between Hellenistic hermeneutics and Jewish hermeneutics is that Hellenistic hermeneutics has “a this or a that”; in biblical Jewish hermeneutics (not rabbinic), it can be both. Revelation 14 describes the character of these people. No matter what they are in terms of organization and anthropology, it describes the character and nature of these people: a company of praisers of God who are looking at the Son who are blessed by Him and striving with forgetfulness. The Jewish people have forgotten the covenant. They are “hearing and obeying” in the character of Simeon, clinging to the promised reward of an eternal home that shall be added to them by the Son of God’s own Right Hand. Somehow it describes the character of this 144,000. The Hebrew names describe their character as a corporate unit.
The End from the Beginning
All kinds of books will tell you “this,” “that” and “the other thing”; I am not telling anything beyond what I have told here: the key is in Genesis 49. “Seal these things up until the time of the end” (Dan. 12:4). At the appropriate time, the Holy Spirit will show exactly what these things mean, but so far I know what the Holy Spirit is saying. Look at Jacob, look at Genesis 49, forget about the Christian commentaries, go back to Genesis. What does it say in the Tanakh? “God declares the end from the beginning” (Is. 46:10).
Declaring the end from the beginning,And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Notice it is “from ancient times” He declares things which are not yet. He declares the end from the beginning.
Think of the Bible as a loaf of bread that has not been cut; it looks the same on both ends, does it not? Genesis and Revelation go together. There are the twelve sons of Jacob, the twelve signs in Genesis 49 and what do we have in Revelation 6? The blood of Abel calls out for justice. And the blood of the martyrs calls out for justice in Revelation 6:9-11. There is the woman in the sky in Joseph’s vision in Genesis and what do we have in Revelation 12? He declares the end from the beginning.
The creation and the new creation mutually illuminate each other between John and Genesis; so does the creation and the re-creation in Revelation. Genesis is “creation,” John is “new creation,” but Revelation is “re-creation.” The key is in Genesis. The whole Bible is in the Book of Genesis. The entire history of the Jews and the history of the Church is tied up in Genesis 49 in some way. “He declares the end from the beginning.” It all depends on this one guy, Jacob.
Why Choose Jacob?
Of all the great people in the world, of all the great men in the Bible, why does God take a schemer, a con-artist, a manipulator, a “shrewdy,” and hinge His entire plan of salvation and history for the world on this one guy? Why, of all the fine people in this country, who were born in this country, who could be standing up here giving a much better performance than I can, does God pick up a drug addict from the streets of New York and bring him to England? Who can answer those questions? The only way I can even begin to understand it is that losers have nothing to brag about except God’s grace.
And the Jews as a nation and a people are a nation of losers. They have lost everything but one thing: the promise of God. That is the one thing they have not lost. They lost their children and they have lost their hope. Go to Israel. Zionism was their dream. Today they get a visa to leave Israel to go to the United States or something. The Russians go there because they cannot get a visa to go to the United States or Canada. Everything the Jews try turns to garbage.
The 19th-century center of culture and science was Germany, but who was at its center? German Jews. For better or worse, Karl Marx was a German Jew, Sigmund Freud was a German Jew, the scientist Steinmetz was a German Jew. They thought they had it made, that they were the intellectuals and molders of modern science. Everybody was following their ideas, but it turned against them. They lost everything. Hitler came along and actually said, “There are only two kinds of superior races: Jews and Germans. We’re going to find out who is going to come out on top.” The Jews lost everything in the Holocaust, so they go to Israel, and now they are going to lose that.
They are losing the land, they have lost their hope, they have lost their idealism. The Antichrist will enter that country and be proclaimed the Messiah and they will be misled and betrayed by their own rabbis. They lose everything except the promise of God. God’s redemptive plan for the salvation of the world and the future of the Church is bound up with this prophetic and redemptive plan for the salvation of the nation of Israel.
Why would He choose a nation like that, a little nation? What do they have to brag about? Maybe that is why. There is so little. Even in the days of David and Solomon they were never a great power, they were only a regional power. They were never a great world power like Rome or Babylon or Persia. (They will be in the Millennium.) Intellectuals? It was not the Jews but the Greeks who were the intellectuals of the ancient world. They were nothing compared to the great powers. Yet God takes the insignificant things and that is what He uses.What happens to the Jews happens to us. Heads and tails are the Church and Israel. We can distinguish between heads and tails but we cannot separate them.
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; (1 Corinthians 1:26)
God did not choose the Jews because they were the greatest nation; He chose them because they were the least. And He did not choose us because we were the greatest of people, He chose me because I was a drug addict in New York. I did not have anything. Most of my friends are dead from dope.
It Will Be Fulfilled
God’s whole working in Jacob’s life pointed to this one chapter, Genesis 49, and then He ends it. Genesis 49, Revelation 7—it is going to happen. That prophecy will be fulfilled. A time is going to come in some way when His purpose for the Jews to be lights to the nations is going to happen.
Ben-Gurion said the Jews must be lights to the nations, that they must have a model of socialism in their economy and government that the Gentiles will want to imitate. But a time will come when they are going to be lights to the nations, when they have the light of their Messiah. They lost it all except the promise. If God can break His promise to Jacob, give me one good reason He has to keep His promise to the Church.
Before Jesus comes, the sons of Jacob are going to proclaim Jesus to the nations. Before Jesus comes, the Church is going to be in very serious trouble. God is going to revive it, but do we know who is going to revive it?
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11:15)
For who? For the Church.I do not know what to make out of it, but I am telling you, Genesis 49 has always been fulfilled, and Genesis 49 is going to be fulfilled. The Jews have lost everything, but they have not lost the promise of God.God bless.