They That Sow In Tears: An Exposition of Psalm 126
Biblical Research Monthly, installments from August, September, October, November 1951 — by Dr. David L. Cooper
Here and there throughout the Scriptures are found gems of special brilliance and luster. Psalm 126 is one of these. From childhood we have had our attention focused on Psalm 23 because of its great spiritual value. But Psalm 126 is just as glorious and wonderful as Psalm 23 — or any other portion of the Word. When a person evaluates it properly, he comes to the conclusion that Psalm 126 has a richer, a broader, and a deeper meaning than has even Psalm 23; because it is all-comprehensive and involves the world-wide revival in which countless hundreds of millions of people will be saved. With great anticipation therefore, let us enter into the study of this poetical gem of such great price.
Who the human author of this psalm was, we do not know. But we do know that the real Author was none other than God himself. The writer lived after the return of the exiles from Babylonian captivity, for its outlook is from that point of view. Our thinking of the human author suggests a question concerning David's being the author of the entire Book of Psalms. True it is that he was the writer of some of the psalms, many of them, but not of all of them. Solomon, for instance, wrote Psalm 127. David composed Psalms 122 and 124. Moses was the author of Psalm 90, the oldest hymn in the Psalter. Ethan wrote Psalm 89; the sons of Korah, Psalm 88. We can go through the entire Psalter and see who was the human author of many of the psalms, but not of all of them.
NOTE: For an exposition of forty-five of the psalms, see Biblical Research Monthly, issues of 1944 to and including 1947; Israel's Hymnal.
As suggested above, the writer of Psalm 126 lived after the return from the Babylonian captivity, because he looks back to that event and speaks of God's providential working in history in bringing Israel back to the land of the fathers.
The psalm falls into two sections: The first deals with the return of Israel from Babylonian captivity (vss. 1-3); the second foretells Israel's return from his world wide dispersion which, as we shall see, is now in the process of being fulfilled (vss, 4-6). These two sections are built upon the principle, which is known as “the law of double reference.” The prophets frequently were led to describe an event — past, present, or future — and then were shown another one in the more distant future, which was more or less foreshadowed by the first. This law of double reference is ultimately based upon the fundamental principle of typology, that of likeness of type and antitype.1 In this connection, however, it may not be amiss to give an example or two of this principle. In Isaiah 11:1,2 we have a predictionof the first coming of Christ. Immediately after these verses there appears a prophecy of His second advent, found in verses 3-5. Between these two predictions the entire Christian Dispensation intervenes, but is here passed over in silence. The link connecting the two passages is the fact of the Messiah's comings, coming twice: first, His coming in humility, to suffer and die for humanity and to open the new and living way of approach to God by the blood of His cross; and second, His reappearing in power and glory to subject the world unto Himself and to establish a reign of righteousness from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. Another excellent illustration of double reference is Zechariah 9:9,10. Verse 9 is clearly a reference to the first coming of Christ when He enters the city of Jerusalem riding upon an ass. In the next breath, the prophet spoke of His second coming when He will stop all wars and speak peace to the nations. Then “his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Thus between the two predictions the entire Christian Dispensation is passed over, as in Isaiah's passage; yet the two prophecies are bound together by the one thought of Jehovah's appearing upon earth. There are scores of examples of this principle of the law of double reference, but these wilt suffice.
There are but two restorations of Israel to the land of the fathers. This fact is seen in Isaiah 11:11,12:
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, that shall remain, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea... 12 And… from the four comers of the earth.”
Here God declares that, when He puts forth His hand to regather Israel from the four corners of the globe in order to establish him in his own land, He is regathering His Chosen People the second time. If this final regatheringis the second time He performs this benevolent act, there can be but one other. Has that other one ever occurred? Most positively. God put forth His hand in restoring the exiles from Babylonian captivity at the end of the seventy years, as foretold by Jeremiah. These two restorations of Israel to his land are clearly set forth in Psalm 126. The first one has already occurred, as has been stated above, and is described minutely in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and briefly referred to in Psalm 126:1-3, and in a few other passages. The restoration of the captivity of Israel for which the psalmist prayed in verses 4, 5, and 6 is the final one, which is now in the process of development.
With these preparatory remarks we are now ready to study the psalm, but it must be appraised and interpreted in the light of the antecedents which paved the way for and led up to that momentous and epochal event.
I. The Return of the Exiles from Babylon
When Jehovah brought back those that returned to Zion,
We were like unto them that dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing:
Then said they among the nations,
Jehovah hath done great things for them.
Jehovah hath done great things for us,
Whereof we are glad.” (Psalm 126:1-3)
A. God's Overruling Providence
The first thing to note is the phrase, “When Jehovah brought back those that returned to Zion ...” In this temporal clause we see that Jehovah was the one who brought back the exiles from their captivity. God was the cause of their returning. This thought stands out in bold relief. Had He not been behind the movement, as we shall see, they never would have returned. Since God is said to be the one bringing them back, it is for us to accept this statement at its face value and then to interpret the historical facts lying behind that event, age-shaping for Israel.
The fundamental conception of history that the interpreter must bear in mind constantly is set forth by the Apostle Paul in his speech at Athens, Greece:
Ye men of Athens, in all things I perceive that ye are very religious. 23 For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this I set forth unto you. 24 The God that made the world and all thing's therein, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 neither is he served by men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26 and he made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 that they should seek God, if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us; 28 for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain even of your own poets have said, 'For we are also his offspring.'
29 Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and device of man. 30 The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent: 31 inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:22-31)
The thesis of the Apostle's message is that the One Eternal God, whom the Greeks worshiped in ignorance, is the Creator of all things and the only Sovereign of the universe, who is in control of all things, and who is the one in whom we have our very existence. In the midst of this speech he called his hearers' attention to a corollary growing out of his general proposition: “... and he [God] made of one [Adam] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 that they should seek God ...” Figuratively speaking, God has a blueprint of the ages, on which is noted the time for the rise of every nation, the extent to which it may push its borders, and also the time of its decline and disappearance — or its continuance to the coming of the Lord. God the Almighty is the Sovereign of both heaven and earth, and He is directing the course of history, timing all events so that they will contribute to the unfolding of the plan of the ages, as they advance toward the dispensation of the fullness of the times when all things will be headed up under the government of Israel's Messiah, the Redeemer of the world. Our God is overruling. He permits men to exercise their free wills and make their own choices. Yet by His omniscience He overrules their free acts and makes them contribute to the advancement of His cause through the centuries and ages. Another statement of this same truth is to be found in Jeremiah 27:1-11, where God asserts that He gives the kingdom and authority to whomsoever He will, overruling in the lives of men and nations: “... I give it unto whom it seemeth right unto me” (Jeremiah 27:5). He has done this in the past and is still at the helm guiding all things across the tempestuous waters of human events.
B. God Uses Men, Means, Events, and the Scriptures
In steering the course of history, God always uses men, means, events, and the Scriptures, as He did when He brought Israel back from Babylonian captivity. He will do the same thing when He restores him the second time to his land and to favor with Himself. God never does anything of major importance without revealing the matter to His servants, the prophets (Amos 3:1-8). Isaiah, who first mentioned the Babylonian captivity, lived in the latter half of the eighth century before Christ. To Hezekiah he made the simple revelation that “... the days are coming, when all that is in thy [Hezekiah's] house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith Jehovah” (Isaiah 39:6).
The antecedents of the Babylonian captivity were Israel's continual, perpetual backslidings from God and the nation's drifting into idolatry. Sin always brings retribution. Because Israel persisted in idolatry God had to root him up out of his own land and to cast him into that of a heathen environment in order to teach him the lesson of the futility of idolatry.
At the same time Isaiah, Israel's great statesman, prophet, and poet, foretold that God would use Cyrus in restoring the captives to the land of their fathers. The special prediction dealing with this phase of the subject is found in Isaiah 44:24-45:13. In verse 24 God speaks of Himself as the God of creation; in verse 25, as the God of providence; and in verse 26, as the God of performance. Continuing this same line of thought, Jehovah, this God of creation, of providence, and of performance, speaks concerning Cyrus saying, “He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure, even saying of Jerusalem, She, shall be built; and of the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid” (vs. 28). The prophet continues delivering a message directly from Jehovah to Cyrus, saying:
Thus saith Jehovah to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him, and I will loose the loins of Kings; to open the doors before him, and the gates shall not be shut: 2 I will go before thee, and make the rough places smooth; I will break in pieces the doors of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron; 3 and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that it is I, Jehovah, who call thee by thy name, even the God of Israel. 4 For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel my chosen, I have called thee by thy name; I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. 5 I am Jehovah, and there is none else; besides me there is no God. I will gird thee, though thou hast not known me; 6 that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am Jehovah, and there is none else. 7 I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am Jehovah, that doeth all these things.” (Isaiah 45:1-7)
Let us remember and keep firmly in mind that Isaiah lived in the latter half of the eighth century before Christ (750-700). In this oracle he assumes that the cities of Judah will be devastated (Isaiah 44:26), Jerusalem will be destroyed, and the Temple burned; but he looks into the future — yet he does not say how far — and sees a man by the name of Cyrus, who will act as Jehovah's shepherd, who will issue a decree, and who will...“perform all my pleasure, even saying of Jerusalem, She shall be built; and of the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” Here is a clear definite prediction that Cyrus would issue this twofold decree for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and of the Temple of God. Whether or not it was revealed to Isaiah who Cyrus was, he does not say; but he here specifically records a message from God to Cyrus, in which He, the Almighty, promises, in going before him, to subdue nations before him and to open up the hidden treasures of darkness in order that he might be paid for his services which he unknowingly, performs for the Almighty.
Another prophecy concerning Cyrus, though his name is not mentioned in the immediate context, is Isaiah 41:1-7:
Keep silence before me, 0 islands; and let the peoples renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak; let us come near together to judgment. 2 Who hath raised up one from the east; whom he calleth in righteousness to his foot? he giveth nations before him, and maketh him rule over kings; he giveth them as the dust to his sword, as the driven stubble to his bow. 3 He pursueth them, and passeth on safely, even by a way that he had not gone with his feet. 4 Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I, Jehovah, the first, and with the last, I am he. 5 The isles have seen, and fear; the ends of the earth tremble; they draw near, and come. 6 They help every one his neighbor; and every one saith to his brother, Be of good courage. 7 So the carpenter encourageth the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smiteth the anvil, saying of the soldering, It is good: and he fasteneth it with nails, that it should not be moved.”
That this prediction and the one found in verses 25-29 of this chapter refer to Cyrus is admitted by all scholars, for the delineations of all the passages are the same.
From this quotation a person can see the swift, triumphant, and irresistible march of Cyrus against his foes as he dashed from nation, to nation, conquering all and uniting the subjected lands to his rapidly expanding empire. To all contemporary observers it was apparent that Jehovah was subduing the nations under him and delivering over to him their treasures — and, as we see in the prophecy, He was doing this thing in order that Cyrus might at the proper time send the captives back to their homeland. For the Lord declared, “...I [Jehovah] will make straight all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let my exiles go free, not for price nor reward, saith Jehovah of hosts” (Isaiah 45:13).
Having promised Cyrus divine aid, unprecedented success, and complete victory, Jehovah informed him that he would thus act in his behalf, “... that thou mayest know that it is I, Jehovah, who call thee by thy name, even the God of Israel. 4 For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel my chosen, I have called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me” (Isaiah 45:3,4). According to this prediction God revealed the fact that He would raise up a man and would deliver into his hands wealth, authority, and power that he might rebuild Jerusalem and send the captives back home. All of this God does that this man might restore Israel to his land. Moreover, the Lord declared that He had called this heathen ruler by name. This He did “for Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel my chosen ...” He surnamed him Cyrus, this man whom He planned to use in Israel's behalf, in order that the people might know that he was the one chosen of God to deliver them, whenever he would appear upon the historic scene.
Did God thus delegate such unheard-of powers and authority to Cyrus, grant him such overwhelming victories, and bestow such fabulous wealth upon him simply that he might help the Jews? Was his doing good to Israel the end in view? The answer is, most emphatically, “No!” He blessed and prospered Cyrus that he in turn might assist the Jews in returning to their homeland. He sent these blessings upon them that they in turn might fit into His program of blessing the world; for to Cyrus He declared “... I will gird thee, though thou hast not known me; that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me: I am Jehovah, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:5,6). In this quotation we see that the ultimate object which God had in view was the blessing of all nations.
The thought of the unfolding of God's plan through the centuries, which He gave especially for the eye of Cyrus, must be kept clearly in mind as we pursue our study of this psalm. Who is this mysterious Cyrus, of whom you, Isaiah, are speaking? No answer to this question. The decades pass. A century rolls by. The question remains unanswered. The great Assyrian Empire, with its capital at Nineveh, is the dominant power, overshadowing all others in the East. Each of its kings makes annual incursions into the Westland, ruthlessly conquering peoples, treading nations under foot, and leaving death, destruction, misery, and woe in the wake of his conquest.
Undreamed-of by those living in the glamour of the royal palace at Nineveh, there lies dormant in the heart of a young man the love of his country and his people, who had been smitten down by the cruel sword of the Assyrian aggressors. Though crushed to earth, patriotism often still lingers in the hearts of a subjected people, or in the soul of one lone man. Soon this young man begins to dream of the revival of his lost and buried nation and of its resurging back into life and prominence again. Thus he dreams of a grand and glorious resurrection to independence of his native land, old Babylon. He tells his dreams to others of his countrymen. By so doing, he kindles the flame of nationalism in their breasts. Suddenly there is an insurrection against the tyranny of Assyria, young Nabopolassar causes a coup d'etat. Old Babylon is reborn under the leadership of this brave, heroic man and grows under his wise and beneficent leadership. He is succeeded by his son, Nebuchadnezzar, who receives the scepter from his father's hand and daringly extends his borders until his kingdom becomes the first of the four world empires concerning which God later made revelations through the prophet Daniel. At the time appointed in the counsels of God, He brought Nebuchadnezzar over to the Westland and subjected the little kingdom of Judah to one of the most crushing defeats ever suffered by a conquered people. The flower of the nation was carried into captivity. The land became a province of the Babylonian Empire.
But before this fateful event Jeremiah had foretold the Babylonian Exile, which would last seventy years (Jeremiah, chapters, 25,29).
Babylon held supreme power in the Near East during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, of his successor, Nabonidus, and of Belshazzar — just as Jeremiah foretold. At the expiration of, these seventy years Babylon was overthrown by the overtowering Medo-Persian Empire under the joint leadership of Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian. These reigned for two years as co-rexes. Darius the Mede, without the slightest echo of a political nature, passed off the stage, and Cyrus became sole rex.
God works from different directions and brings men, events, and groups into contact one with the other at the proper time for the advancement of His purposes. At the beginning of the Babylonian captivity He had sent Daniel, together with three other outstanding Hebrew youths, to Babylon in the first deportation of captives (Daniel chapter 1). These were immediately selected for postgraduate courses in the University of Babylon and graduated with the highest honors — we may believe. God providentially uses men of parts as well as those of honor and integrity — qualified men whom He can trust. Daniel was promoted to a very high position in the diplomatic corps of Babylon, the caste of the Chaldeans, of whom the Book of Daniel speaks. When the Medes and Persians overthrew Babylon, Daniel was promoted to the position of prime minister of the victorious empire. He had the respect and confidence of the officials of the government from Cyrus on down.
At the psychological moment, when the seventy years were coming to a close — as Josephus, the Jewish historian, relates — Cyrus read in the Book of Isaiah the passage which we have examined above. How did Cyrus get the Scroll of Isaiah? We must believe that Daniel and other leading Jews of the time took it to him and had him read the prophecy. They doubtless translated the text and interpreted it to him. Cyrus saw his own name written on the pages of Eternal Truth. He was profoundly impressed with this fact and was moved to do exactly what Isaiah the prophet had foretold approximately two hundred years before this time he would do. He therefore issued the decree, as God had foretold, for the Jews to rebuild their Temple. Ezra, in 1:1-4, gives us this decree:
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of Jehovah by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, Jehovah stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of earth hath Jehovah, the God of heaven, given me; and he hath charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whosoever there is among you of all his people, his God be with him and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of Jehovah, the God of Israel (he is God), which is in Jerusalem. 4 And whosoever is left, in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, besides the freewill-offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.”
While Cyrus in this copy of the decree mentions only the rebuilding of the Temple, we must conclude that he ordered done exactly what God foretold that he would do namely, issue a decree that permitted the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem. This fact becomes apparent when we realize that the Jews, armed with this decree, went back to Jerusalem, repaired the walls, and began building the city. Then the Samaritans opposed them and went so far as to report them to the Persian authorities. In their letter to the Persian monarch these opponents of the Jews wrote, “Be it known unto the king, that the Jews that came up from thee are come to us unto Jerusalem; they are building the rebellious and the bad city, and have finished the walls, and repaired the foundations” (Ezra 4:12). It is clear from this message that the Jews had repaired the walls and were rebuilding the city. Beyond question, therefore, the decree which Cyrus issued relative to the building of the Temple included also the authority for the Jews to rebuild their city. Thus in doing this, Cyrus issued a twofold decree which Isaiah foretold he would authorize.
We must note the fact that Cyrus' decree, which he issued when stirred by the Almighty, required the Jews who would not return to help those who were returning with “... silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill-offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.” Thus those refusing to go had to send financial aid for the building up of the national home though they themselves did not desire to go. God is bringing about the same thing with reference to the Jews who remain here in America and is causing them to send financial aid for the building up of the national home.
We see that God, in bringing the Jews (approximately 50,000 who desired to return) back to their homeland, used men, means, events, and the Scriptures. He works all thing's together for good for those who love Him, even those who are called according to His purpose. The psalmist, in the passage we are studying, therefore was absolutely correct in saying that God brought back to Zion those who returned — those going back under the leadership of Zerubbabel, Joshua the high priest, Ezra the scribe, and Nehemiah the governor.
C. The Joy of the Returned Exiles
The inspired writer informs us that, when God brought back those returning to Zion, they “were like unto them that dream.” Those captives had an intense longing to be in the land of their fathers, which they loved, seemingly, with all their hearts. From day to day they dreamed of returning. Hence when they were actually brought back, it was hard for them to realize that their dream had come true. Sometimes the Lord brings most wonderful things into our lives of which we little think, and which delight us greatly. Then we say that such a condition is too good to be true. Such was the attitude of the returned exiles.
“Then was our mouth filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing...” The joy that was in their hearts found expression in their songs and laughter. This was undoubtedly expressed in worship and praise to God. We should always return thanks to God for everything which we enjoy and pray to Him in regard to all thing's which we do.
D. The Recognition of God's Providence
“Then said they among the nations, Jehovah hath done great things for them.” Since Israel had been led captive into a foreign land, and since they had merely existed under such a tyrannical rule as that under which they had lived for seventy years in Babylon, from the human point of view there was no possibility of their returning to the land of their fathers, regardless of how greatly they desired to do so. But, in the providence of God, Babylon went down under the shattering blows of the rising Medo-Persian Empire. The condition of the captives then seemed more hopeless than ever. Every door of escape was closed against them. They had no will nor power to rise up in rebellion against their captors. No Moses with his rod of divine authority and power to throw off the galling yoke of foreign domination had appeared on the scene. No monarch of any empire up to date had voluntarily permitted captives in his domain to return to their land, to rebuild their capital city, and to begin life anew. Nevertheless, the unthinkable, the thing least expected by the natural man, occurred. “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.” Cyrus, having seen what Isaiah had foretold he would do, was stirred to the depths of his soul and issued the decree authorizing the Jews to return to the land of their fathers. The secret of this whole affair is found in Proverbs 21:1: “The king's heart is in the hands of Jehovah as the water courses: He turneth it whithersoever he will.” God did this in spite of the fact that law of the Medes and Persians “altereth not” (Daniel 6:8). The Lord frequently does for His people exceeding abundantly above all that they ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). Cyrus was therefore moved also to decree that “... whosoever is left, in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, besides the freewill-offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:4). Such an attitude and command had never been known in the annals of history, yet this decree was issued by King Cyrus and was carried out because the laws of the Medes and Persians altereth not. The case of the Jews' returning, being armed with a decree from Cyrus to re-establish their home in the land of their fathers, was absolute and positive proof, even to the heathen nations groping in pagan darkness, that God had worked — that is, that the God of Israel, who is the Supreme God, had worked and was continuing His providential care of and work in behalf of His people. We who know God, and who are familiar with the Scriptures, are not surprised at this; for He declares of Himself that He is a God who “worketh for him that waiteth for him,” and “who meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways...”(Isaiah 64:4,5).
The Inspired writer of Psalm 126 then ends his comment by saying, “Jehovah hath done great things for us, Whereof we are glad.” Thus the psalmist recognized the divine intervention in Israel's behalf. God did not bring them back contrary to their will. Those who had a longing for their homeland, and who had served God according to divine appointment were given the privilege of returning. In carrying out His schedule and the plan of the ages — or any part of it — the Lord never forces the will of His people, but always grants them the sovereign right of exercising their own choices and preferences. God is very eager to do marvelous things for His own. The only reason He does not do greater and mightier things for them is that they do not, by full surrender and trust, permit His doing so. His plea to Israel was: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and will show thee great things, and difficult, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3). This invitation is still extended to them. From various prophecies we know that Israel will yet call upon Him to work thus in his behalf. When he does, the Lord will perform those mighty acts of deliverance (Jeremiah 23:7, 8).
1 Yet we must be very careful, in thinking of a person, a thing, or an event as a type foreshadowing something in the future which we call its antitype. The safe rule to follow in reference to types is this: Call nothing a type unless the Scriptures so state, or very clearly imply, that it is a type of something else. An extreme typology has often been made a substitute for sound, sane, scholarly interpretation.
II. Israel's Prayer to Return to His Native Land from His World-Wide Dispersion
In His wise and loving providence and righteous government, God has ordained that prayer and intercession should figure largely in His direction and control of the world. Prayer is therefore a mighty factor in the running of the universe. “Prayer changes things.” “Prayer brings victory.”
A. The Final Restoration of Israel Foretold
Jeremiah, as we have already seen, foretold that Israel would return from the Babylonian captivity at the end of seventy years (Jeremiah 25:12; 29:10). An examination of Jeremiah, chapter 25, shows that the return, after the Babylonian captivity, is foretold in verse 12. The fall of Babylon and the wrecking of its ancient civilization at the close of the Exile are blended with a prophecy concerning the final desolations and wrecking of civilization at the end of the present dispensation. In verse 12 we see the beginning of this blending, for Babylon is said to be reduced to a desolate condition forever. In verses 15 and 16 we have a description of the final overthrow of all the nations at the end of the age. At the conclusion of the Tribulation, which synchronizes with the close of the war of the great day of God the Almighty, Babylon will be reduced to a state of perpetual desolation — and continue in this condition throughout the Millennial Age. Again, in chapter 29, the restoration of Israel at the end of the Babylonian captivity, which is mentioned in verse 10, is blended with the prediction concerning Israel's restoration from all nations at the end of the Tribulation. This latter forecast is found in verses 12-14.
Concerning this final restoration of Israel from his world-wide captivity, Jeremiah made a very definite prediction in the following passage:
Hear the word of Jehovah, 0 ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off; and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. 11 For Jehovah hath ransomed Jacob, and redeemed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. 12 And they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow unto the goodness of Jehovah, to the grain, and to the new wine, and to the oil, and to the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all, 18 Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old together; for I will turn their mourning into Joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow. 14 And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith Jehovah.” (Jeremiah 31:10-14)
He who scattered the people of Israel among all nations in A.D. 70 because of the rejection of their Messiah will likewise gather them from all lands and will be a shepherd to them. Thus the Lord called upon all nations to hear His message and to declare it in the isles of the sea. The basis for this prediction is found in verse 11: “Jehovah hath ransomed Jacob, and redeemed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.” Jehovah paid the ransom price for Israel, and also for the world, on Calvary nineteen hundred years ago. He will redeem the faithful remnant of the Chosen People from the hand of him who is stronger than they, the Antichrist and his cohorts — as well as from the devil.
They, therefore, shall “... come and sing in the height of Zion [Jerusalem at that time will be located on the southern part of the great hill of Jehovah that will be raised up in the central part of the land of Palestine (Ezek., chaps. 40-48)], and shall flow unto the goodness of Jehovah, to the grain, and to the new wine, and to the oil, and to the young of the flock and to the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.” We should note carefully the fact that in this return Israel first comes “... unto the goodness of Jehovah.” What is meant by this expression? The correct idea of this term may be gathered from Exodus 33:12-34:9: In this passage we see that God promised Moses: “... I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and will proclaim the name of Jehovah before thee ...” (Exodus 33:19). God put Moses in the cleft of the rock on the top of Mount Sinai, caused His glory to pass before him, and proclaimed the name of Jehovah. In doing so, He gave a sevenfold statement of His character. The facts of this passage show that the goodness of Jehovah is nothing other than the character and glory of Jehovah, which He displayed in passing before Moses. Confirmation of this interpretation is found in Psalm 27:13,14. Here David said: “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living.” Then he exhorted the readers of the psalm: “Wait for Jehovah; ... Yea, wait thou for Jehovah.” David, according to this passage, expected God in all His goodness and glory to appear in the land of the living that he could see Him. Then he urged, in his poem, that the faithful people of God should wait for His appearing on this earth. Thus Israel will come unto Jehovah at the time that God regathers him from among the nations. From various passages we know that the faithful remnant of the Chosen People will repudiate their national sin of rejecting the Messiah and will come to Him, accepting Him as the rightful and only deliverer and Messiah. Then, like a flowing stream, the whole nation will go up to Jerusalem to hear Jehovah proclaim the Word of God.
B. Prophecy Being Fulfilled in Israel Today
We have every reason to believe that God, in turning Israel's final captivity back to Himself, will use, as He did on the former occasion, men, means, events, and the Scriptures. The Lord uses all things and makes them contribute to the advancement of His plans and purposes.
Turn again our captivity, 0 Jehovah,
As the streams in the South.
They that sow in tears shall reap in Joy.
He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:4-6)
The writer of Psalm 126 envisaged Israel scattered among all nations, in fulfillment of various predictions, and at the same time recognized that the faithful remnant will pray God to turn their captivity — for had He not done this very thing for them at the conclusion of the Babylonian captivity — as the streams in the South are turned? The word rendered “South” is, in the original, Negev. This term primarily means a barren, dry, desert place. Because the southern part of Palestine receives so very little rain and is, and has been for centuries, a practical desert, the term signifying such a condition was naturally used. The word Negev on the lips of the prophets and on the tongue of the Jews today who are now returning to the land is a term used to denote that dry section in the southern part of the land. According to authoritative sources its total acreage is forty-seven percent of all the land of Palestine west of the Jordan. There are, according to statistics, parts of this section of the land that receive an annual rainfall of approximately four inches. Some other portions receive as much as eight. Many times they receive much less than this. Naturally then, this is a dry desert section of the country. There are no streams in it to be turned. The imagery in the prayer, “turn again our captivity 0 Jehovah, As the streams in the Negev,” is that of an irrigation system, in which the water runs in canals and is diverted to different sections according to the will of the men in charge of the project. The language used assumes that a highly developed system of irrigation exists and is recognized as characteristic of that section of the land.
Has there ever been any irrigation system in the Negev? There is no evidence that there had been such a project at the time of the return from Babylonian captivity. This statement being true, the psalmist was not speaking from that which was present before his eyes. Archaeologists, however, claim to find evidence that there was some irrigation in certain parts of the land at the time of the Roman occupation, which began in 63 B.C. They furthermore tell us that there was quite an extensive civilization, as is evidenced from the scattered ruins, in the Negev, throughout the Byzantine Period and on into the time of the Crusades.1 After that Period the entire civilization of the Negev was wrecked and disappeared from the historic scene, leaving only the ruins of time as a silent witness of a flourishing past. Since then there have been very little life and activity there. In modern times some Bedouins have roved over the country at will. In the few villages found here and there live the fellahin (village dwellers) who by means of their primitive methods of agriculture wrest from the unwilling soil a scant subsistence. In view of these facts a person is driven to the conclusion that our writer, in Psalm 126, by prophetic insight and vision was carried across the Centuries to the very end of this age and saw that which is only beginning to be developed in the Negev at the present time.
In January, 1950, it was my privilege to visit the Negev, going from Tel Aviv to Beersheba. I could not, however, because of the military situation, go south of that point. It is true that I had visited the Negev in 1937, going southward from Jerusalem through Hebron to Beersbeba. I had likewise at that time been at Elath, the old Ezion-Geber, which is located at the northern end of the Gulf of Akabah. At that time there were no agricultural activity and no irrigation works. But in 1950 I saw the beginnings of such a system. New colonies were springing up here and there in different sections of the country. Deep water wells were being drilled, and huge water pipes were being laid to convey the water to various sections of the land for irrigation purposes as well as for human consumption. According to the Lowdermilk plan vast dams are to be built across gorges and canyons of the mountains of Southern Judaea to hold the water that falls in the mountains during the rainy season. This water is to be released, according to plan, to run hydroelectric plants. It also will be used for irrigation purposes. Thus there will be great irrigation canals and ditches, conveying the water from these sources to the places where it is to be used in agricultural pursuits. In view, therefore, of all these facts a person is warranted in the conviction that our psalmist was, as stated above, carried in vision from his own time across the centuries to our present day and saw that which has only begun to be developed in the Negev since the birth of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.
According to literature and information which I obtained in Israel during my recent seventy-day visit (December 20, 1949 - March 1, 1950), the Jews who are returning to the State of Israel entertain the highest hopes for the future of the Negev. There are rumors and press dispatches which indicate that oil has been discovered in that section of the land. In the Jewish-Arabic War, which broke out when the British withdrew from Palestine, the chemical plant of Palestine Potash, Inc., at the northwest corner of the Dead Sea, was destroyed by the Arabs. The Jews are now building (May, 1951) a new plant at the southwest end of the Dead Sea and the government is appropriating money to build a road from it to the main highway in order to truck the chemicals which they intend to extract from its briny water. There are some wonderful colonies is the Plain of Sharon and in the Emek (the Valley of Esdraelon), but the shift in development now appears decidedly to be to the Negev. It seems to be the overwhelming consensus of enlightened opinion that this section of the country can be developed most easily and can accommodate the great influx of immigrants, that is flowing constantly to the land. (Last evening, May 25, 1951, David Ben Gurion, the Prime Minister of Israel, speaking at Hollywood Bowl and over the radio, said that the Jews are returning to their land at the rate of one thousand daily.) A surprising upsurge of development greatly surpassing everything thus far brought about, we may believe, will appear like a phantom in this southern section of the land, which is in view in the prophecy of Psalm 126:4-6.
C. God's Providentially Using Men, Means, Events, and the Scriptures in Turning Israel's Captivity
Since God uses men, means, events, and the Scriptures in directing the course of history and in working out His plans and purposes, let us now look at this phase of our subject as it bears upon the present return of Israel to the land.
1. A Man
God always has His man, the one of His choice, the one who has the qualifications necessary for the task at hand, at the right place and at the psychological moment. Back in the winter of 1917 and in the spring of 1918, the Germans had a decided advantage over the Allies because they had the more powerful explosives. There was at that time an unobserved English-Jewish professor, a leader in biochemistry at Manchester University, England. He discovered a formula which is necessary in the manufacture of TNT. When the British Government became aware of his findings, the proper officials approached him in order that they might obtain the formula for the direly needed explosive. He refused to sell it. But England had to have it. Finally, when he was pressed, according to reports reaching me, for an answer as to what consideration would lead him to turn over this formula to the British his immediate reply was that it was free to England if she would guarantee that the Jews could build up a home for themselves in the land of their fathers, where they could live in peace. As a result of these negotiations the Balfour Declaration, which granted the Jews permission to build their home in Palestine, and which was later incorporated in the Versailles Treaty, was announced. The formula was turned over to Britain. The Allies began the manufacture of TNT, the tide of war immediately started turning in favor of the Allies, and on November 11, 1918, the armistice was signed. Thus God began using this chemist, in the initial stage of working out His plans for restoring Israel. By his unselfish patriotism, by his love for God and for his brethren, and by his love for his native land, this little-known chemist was shot like a meteor into the political heavens of the world and remains there a bright and shining star of the first magnitude, today. This man is none other than the honorable and venerable first president of the State of Israel, Dr. Chaim Weizmann.
Not until the issuing of the Balfour Declaration in the fall of 1917 could students of prophecy recognize the direction in which the Lord, who overrules all things, was steering the course of the war. Instantly, to those students of prophecy who interpret the predictions of the Word of God in a sane and scholarly manner, came the conviction that He was preparing Israel for the return of His people. World War I has therefore correctly been interpreted as being providentially used to prepare Palestine for the Jew. Twenty-one years later World War II broke out. From the very start we who knew prophecy believed that God had a divine and holy purpose in permitting that holocaust of slaughter to break forth upon the world. As soon as the demented Hitler — a monstrosity and the very embodiment of that which Satan alone can inspire — driven by an insane prejudice launched his diabolical program of a systematic extermination of the Jews. Discerning prophetic students began to see God's purpose in permitting this terrible conflict, which was to prepare the Jew for the land. While the Jew as a nation had a passing interest in the land of his fathers, the coming of World War II caused him to see that it was absolutely necessary that he build up his home in Palestine.2 As a result of World War II there has been a constant flow of Jews to the land. Thus we may conclude that the chief divine purpose of World War II was to force the Jew to quicken the tempo of his trek back to the land of his fathers and to increase the volume of the tide of immigration.
Prior to the propaganda put out by Mussolini and Hitler before World War II, the Jews who had returned to Palestine and the Arabs lived peaceably and amicably together. There were cordiality, friendliness, and co-operation between the two groups. When, however, this flood of propaganda began to flow out into the Arab world, disaffection, confusion, and hard feelings were stirred up on the part of the Arabs against the Jews. This propaganda has continued until the Arabs of other nations have misunderstood the real situation and have become hostile to the Jews.
To Abraham God threw out the warning that He would curse the one who curses him and his seed. An examination of history proves that all the nations that have had anti-Semitism in their hearts, and that have launched persecutions against the Jews have gone down, sooner or later, into oblivion. No one can entertain anti-Semitic feelings and enjoy the fullness of the blessings of God. Let us pray to Him that if there be any feelings of animosity against the Jews, He remove it from our hearts, and that He may plant in its stead a love for His ancient people, who are still “beloved for the fathers' sake” (Romans 11:28).
This great Jewish immigration into Palestine brought about many complications and raised numerous problems. One of the outstanding difficulties was the conflict between the Jews and the Arabs. The Arabs in the land, having the sympathy of the seven Arabic nations constituting the Arab League, opposed Jewish immigration to Palestine. The conflict has continued growing more critical with the passing of the years. Finally, Great Britain, under the pressure of circumstances, decided to give up the mandatory power over the country. The United Nations wanted to partition3 the land, giving certain portions to the Arabs and other sections to the Jews, and at the same time having certain strategic localities under the supervision of the United Nations. To this scheme both Jews and Arabs objected.
When the partitioning of Palestine was being hotly debated in the United Nations Assembly,4 little did the world leaders5 dream of their being on the eve of an epochal event that will eventually change the entire history of the world. But He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep (Psalm 121:4). He watches over His word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:11,12). The historic hour struck at 4:00 P.M., May 14, 1948, when England withdrew her forces from Palestine and gave up the mandate over the country. At that epochal moment the new State of Israel was born — a development of breath-taking importance. The unexpected, the inexplicable from the human point of view, appeared with lightning rapidity before the startled gaze of a dazed world. A modern miracle was wrought before the blinded eyes of unbelieving mankind. A new State, a force that must be reckoned with from now and onwards, appeared as out of nowhere and stands a stern reality on the international stage — with a grim and determined look toward the uncertain future. It is growing in importance daily. The representatives of Israel must sit in the councils of the nations and help cast the deciding vote on world problems.
Everything connected with the rebirth of the State of Israel is manifestly an exhibit of divine intervention. Throughout the Jewish-Arabic War occurred many things that remind us of the exploits of faith seen in the Old Testament. Truly the Jews in the State of Israel can say with the psalmist:
We have heard with our ears, 0 God,
Our fathers have told us,
What work thou didst in their days,
In the days of old.
Thou didst drive out the nations with thy hand;
But them thou didst plant;
Thou didst afflict the peoples;
But them thou didst spread abroad.
For they gat not the land in possession by their own sword,
Neither did their own arm save them;
But thy right hand, and thine arm, and the
light of thy countenance,
Because thou wast favorable onto them.” (Psalm 44:1-3)
For example, in the critical Battle of Jerusalem the Jews had only two machine guns in opposing the Arab army. They devised a gadget that made a noise like the rattle of a machine gun. These they placed all along the line. At the same time they moved the two machine guns to different positions and used them a little while before moving them farther down the line. They had used all their ammunition — until they had only one cartridge left — when the armistice, imposed by the United Nations, stopped the hostilities. God timed all the events and gave Israel the victory. One night in the Negev one man, driving a jeep — in which was placed a fluorescent dummy and a loud-speaker screaming out “Surrender!” — routed an entire Egyptian army. To this lone man those that could not escape surrendered. Many miraculous events of the war are similar to those recorded in the Biblical account.
Palestine is recognized in the Scriptures and by students generally as being the center of the earth. This is proved by a glance at a world map. Anciently it used to be called the bridge of the nations, because the nations in North Africa, Southern Europe, and Western Asia in their commercial relations and military operations had to go through Palestine. It has lost none of its ancient, strategic importance. This land God gave to His Chosen People whom He selected from above all other nations (Deuteronomy 7:6) to be His own possession. Israel has been aptly called the “hub of the nations.” That this statement is true is easily seen by the fact that God declared:
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
When he separated the children of men,
He set the bounds of the peoples
According to the number of the children of Israel.
For Jehovah's portion is his people;
Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 32:8,9)
From this quotation it is clear that God, in His distribution of the world to the various tribes, gave to each his portion; but, in doing so, He related each one's inheritance to Israel. The eyes of the Lord are upon the land of Israel from the beginning of the year unto the end of it (Deuteronomy 11:12). He is interested in the welfare of these people, because He is yet to use them in His world-wide program of giving the truth to all races. Thus since Israel has become a nation among the races of earth — and became that in a miraculous manner — we may be certain that the time is not in the distant future when God will work through them.
4. The Scriptures
Since Jeremiah emphasized the point that Israel's regathering at the end of the present dispensation is “unto the goodness of Jehovah” — unto Jehovah himself first, and next unto the “grain, and to the new wine, and to the oil and unto the young of the flock of the herd” — obviously the spiritual phase of this turning for which the writer is praying, stands in the foreground of the petition of Psalm 126:4-6. In keeping with this interpretation, is the trend of the thought of the psalm; for in the next verses the author states:
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
He that goeth and weepeth, bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again, with joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”
The sowing here cannot be interpreted literally. This sowing, therefore, is not one of wheat,6 or barley, oats, or rye, but is the sowing of the Word of the Living God, which the Lord will use in bringing Israel back to Himself.
1 During the time when there were some irrigation projects in the Negev, there was no return of the Jews to their land. This passage (Psalm 126) has, therefore, no connection with anything that is past.
2 God works all things together and makes each event contribute to the general advancement of His plans among men. Providentially, the greatest Jewish population in any one country is now found in America. The reason for the Lord's putting so very many of them in this land of opportunity with its free enterprise and initiative was that they might accumulate wealth so that they could build up the land of their fathers. On this point hear Moses: “But thou shalt remember Jehovah thy God, for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth; that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as at this day” (Deuteronomy 8:18). In this passage God states unequivocally that it is He who gives them this power and opportunity for a definite purpose: that, “... he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers.” The establishment of God's covenant with Israel involves a great outlay of money in the Jews' program of building up their land as at the present time. The Lord, therefore, brought the Jews to America, with its economy of free enterprise and big business, in order that they might accumulate fabulous amounts of money so that they can support the Zionistic program. Thus the Lord has placed, by His overruling providence into the hands of the Jews incredible sums of money, not that they might expend it upon their own pleasures, but that they might sustain the building program of the State of Israel. If the wealthy Jews of America do not willingly give their money to the building up this project, the Lord will bring it about that they will be willing to do that. Rich Jews in other countries, likewise, have been given wealth in order that they might assist in this great national home-building project — as in the days of restoration from Babylon.
3 The United Nations wanted to divide Palestine, but they thus far have been thwarted in doing this. There is, however, a prophecy which foretells that all the nations of the end time will partition it: “For, behold, in those days ... I will gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will execute Judgment upon them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations: and they have parted my land, 3 and have cast lots for my people, and have given a boy for a harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they may drink” (Joel 3:1-3). In view of this prophecy we may be certain that the nations yet will partition Palestine and wilt spew out of it the Jews who are now gathered back there. On account of this inhuman action, God will execute Judgment upon all of them, which event occurs at the end of the Tribulation.
4 When the United Nations took up the question of the partitioning of Palestine, little did they know of the prophecy found in Zechariah, chapter 12, which foretells that those nations that meddle into Jewish affairs and burden themselves with Jerusalem and the Jews will incur the displeasure of God Almighty. Hear what He says: “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of reeling unto all the peoples round about, and upon Judah also shall it be in the siege against Jerusalem. 3 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all the peoples; all that burden themselves with it shall be sore wounded; and all the nations of the earth shall be gathered together against it” (Zechariah 12:2,3). Thus Jerusalem becomes a cup of reeling unto all those people round about that begin to meddle into the Jewish political situation. While verse 2 has only the nations round about Palestine in mind, in verse 3 the prophet lifts his eyes and looks out upon all nations, including them in his prediction. Thus Jerusalem will become a “... burdensome stone for all the peoples; all that burden themselves with it shall be sore wounded.” The picture in the original is very graphic: It is that of a person who puts his hands under a large stone in an effort to lift it out of its place. Instead of moving it, as he hopes, the stone becomes heavier, weighs down upon his hands, crushes, and injures them. Thus shall it be to those nations that meddle into the Jewish political situation. Such a warning as this should be sufficient, but it seems that it is not; because the nations of the world neither know God nor the Scriptures; nor do they believe what He says. Thus they will continue to interfere with Jewish affairs and must suffer the consequences.
5 From the founding of the organization of the United Nations to the present time, the leaders of the nations have consistently disregarded the Scriptures and ignored Him whom they, by Amos the prophet, are urged to seek — even “... him that maketh the Pleiades and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night; that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth (Jehovah is his name); 9 that bringeth sudden destruction upon the strong, so that destruction cometh upon the fortress” (Amos 5:8,9).
6 Some interpreters have ignored the context of versus 4-6 and have interpreted the seed-sowing as that of actual, literal seed: wheat, barley, etc. The question immediately arising in connection with such an interpretation is, Why does the sower go forth, sowing his seed and weeping? The answer usually given is that the sower is planting the last of his grain, out of which he would normally make his bread, and that therefore he would do his sowing with weeping. It is true that the oriental farmers have very scant crops. But no one has ever been known to go forth sowing his seed and at the same time weeping because of the scarcity of the seed. Thus to interpret the words literally is to do violence to facts in actual practice and to disregard the context. As stated above, the sowing is that of the seed of preciousness, the Word of the Living God, in connection with Israel's return to the Lord when goes back the second time to his own land. In connection to the thought of Israel's return to God and the land, I recommend a Study of Psalms 117 and 118.
As seen above, Israel's return to “the goodness of Jehovah" is his return to Jehovah himself. But since no one can come to Jehovah the Father except through Christ (John 14:6), the return in this instance must be to the Son. But in coming to Christ, Israel will have to call upon Him:
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 and how shall they preach, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things.” (Romans 10:14,15)
According to these verses Israel must be given God's Word in order that he might hear of Christ, might believe on Him, might call upon Him and be saved. “So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).
God has one way of saving people, which is “... through the foolishness of the preaching" (I Corinthians 1:21) — not foolish preaching! Both Jew and Gentile have to be saved by the grace of God through faith, but faith comes by hearing, by the message of Christ. It is absolutely essential, therefore, that the truth be given to Israel. Notwithstanding these clear scriptural facts, some Bible students have come to the conclusion that Israel is to be saved, not by the preaching of the truth, but by looking literally upon the Lord Jesus Christ when He comes at the end of the Tribulation. As proof of this position, reference is made to Zechariah 12:10: “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and 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" (King James Version).
Note carefully the sentence: “... and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced." From this translation the idea is gathered that Israel, at the end of the Tribulation, will look upon Jesus physically and bodily when He returns to this earth and, by seeing Him at that time, will accept Him. They then will be saved, not by faith, which comes from the preaching of the Word, but by sight. But this translation is incorrect. The American Standard Version accurately renders the Hebrew by saying that “... they shall look UNTO me [Jehovah] whom they have pierced ..." The same idiom is used by Isaiah in 45:22: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else." This language is an exhortation to the people who survive the Tribulation, as the context indicates, to look unto God and be saved. Obviously, this is an exhortation for them to place their faith in Jehovah and look to Him in trust for their salvation. Thus the people of Israel,when their power has been broken in pieces (Dan. 12:7), having heard the message of truth, will put their faith in the Saviour whom their ancestors pierced at His first coming. They will then call upon Him to come and deliver them. When they do this, He of course will come. This conclusion is confirmed by such passages as the following:
Give ear, 0 Shepherd of Israel,
Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock;
Thou that sittest
above the cherubim, shine forth.
Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh,
stir up thy might, And come to save us.
Turn us again, 0 God;
And cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.”
0 Jehovah, thou God to whom vengeance belongeth,
Thou God to whom vengeance belongeth, shine forth.”
These quotations are prayers of the penitent remnant of Israel, who at the time here foreseen will have been given the truth regarding Messiah and His redemptive work, and who will plead for him to leave His place in glory, to come back to the earth, and to save them. From these passages alone — though there are a number of others that teach the same things — we see that the convicted, penitent remnant of the Hebrews will “... look unto me [Jehovah] whom they have pierced ..."; that is, they will look to Him — not by seeing Him bodily when He returns to earth — but they will look by faith, a faith based upon hearing the Word of God, unto Him who “was wounded for our [Israel's] transgression ..." (Isaiah 53:6). These people will be saved by the preaching of the gospel, just as all others are saved.
It may be necessary at this point for me again to call attention to the fact that the author of Psalm 126 is looking at Palestine as the land in which the developments seen in the prophecy have just started — only since the establishment of the new State of Israel. He sees the people returning to the land, literally to the land of their nativity. Moreover, in vision he sees certain ones bearing the seed, the truth of the grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning blood, and sowing this seed in all Israel. This is indeed a vision of a nation-wide seed-sowing of the truth of God. Since this is a spiritual preview of the return which is now going on, it is also a vision of the nation-wide sowing of the seed throughout all Israel.
D. Time for Broadcasting the Seed — the Word of God
The inspired writer thinks of this period in Israel's history as the time of sowing. No one expects to reap the harvest at the time of planting. Planters have to wait until the seed germinates, springs forth, develops into a plant, and finally produces the head in which the new grain appears. Then it ripens for harvest.
Yet many people insist on seeing big and visible results1 now in the form of a great number of Jews who accept the Lord. They do not see that now is the time to sow the seed in all Israel. Every one who realizes this fact can see that it is necessary to sow the seed at the present time. The sower must not concern himself with converts only. God takes care of that. Our business is to plant and to water, but He gives the increase (I Corinthians 3:6) at the harvest time.
This seed-sowing in all Israel is a colossal task. No one man can do it alone. No small group can accomplish it. The reason for these statements is this: The people of Israel are scattered throughout the nations of the world. They speak the various languages of the people among whom they live. While it is true that there are great centers of Jewish population, as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, many of them are living in isolated places. Those who are scattered and are few in number in various localities must have the message of the truth the same as those in large cities. But in places of great Jewish population the matter of reaching the Hebrews with the Word of God is indeed a problem. There are not enough trained workers to visit them. Many of them live in hotels and apartments, and, so far as being accessible to the sower is concerned, they might as well be barricaded behind castle walls. Moreover, it is most difficult to get them to attend a church or a, public gathering. How then can this seed be sowed throughout the nation? There is but one answer, and that is, through properly prepared literature and by means of the radio and television.
The prophet sees those who are sowing the seed in Israel and realizes that it is a heartbreaking situation. Those who are really sowing do so in tears. They go forth weeping, bearing the seed of preciousness. There is opposition, persecution, misrepresentation on the part of many against those who are working in Israel. They are handicapped, experience difficulties, and face situations that are all but impossible. Some actually endure privations. If there is no trouble, the devil will see to it that some develops. Yet the prophet sees them going forth, sowing with heavy hearts, but looking forward, however, to the reaping time and an abundant harvest.
That there is a special time of world-wide seed-sowing is clear from the following passage:
For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself a ransom for all; the testimony to be borne in its own times; 7 whereunto I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I speak the truth, I lie not), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (I Timothy 2:5,6)
Note the statement, “... the testimony to be borne in its own times." From many passages of Scripture we learn that the real time for the preaching of the gospel “in its own time" is the Tribulation Period. Then it will be given to all nations and bring about the mightiest of all revivals. Read carefully Revelation, chapter 7. In this passage we see that there will be 144,000 Jewish servants, who are sealed, and who will bring about this mighty awakening. Thus the testimony willbe given in its own time during the first part of the Tribulation. The results will come then, for we are told that, when God's judgments are in the earth, “... the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9). This time, of course, as is recognized by all prophetic students, is the Tribulation.
This seed-sowing in Israel now is only the necessary preparation for the greater, world-wide seed-sowing which Israel, in turn, will do in the Tribulation. Since they do not have the message of truth regarding salvation through the blood of Christ, we who have it must give it to them now — while we still have time and opportunity, before the doors are closed against the preaching of the good news of the gospel.
E. The Time of Harvest
The gracious harvest time is coming. The seed is to be sowed in the field of all Israel, which at the present time may be compared to a dry, arid land with only a moist spot here and there. The seed that falls into these spots will germinate immediately; but that which falls on the dry soil lies dormant until the rains come. Then it springs forth. In the dry field of Israel, where indifference toward spiritual things is greatly in evidence, there are those, as “moist spots” here and there, who are eagerly seeking for the truth. When it is presented, they accept it and receive the Messiah. But the bulk of the seed sowed in the field of Israel now remains unwatered and dormant. The refreshing and enlivening rains will come, paradoxically, in the form of the Tribulation judgments, after the church israptured. Those receiving the Word will, with a new life and power, spring forth at that time — a mighty army, 144,000 strong. It is in their hearts that we are sowing the seed now. They will, figuratively speaking, leap forth and seize the banner of Christ, dropped by the ascending church as it goes to meet its Lord in the air.
Then the 144,000 will go forward proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ to the world. These future Jewish evangelists will bring about the World-Wide revival, the like of which has never been before. All other mass movements toward God will pale off into insignificance in comparison with this mightiest of all revivals, which occurs in the first part of the great Tribulation. John was granted a vision of this mighty awakening. He saw an innumerable host of people from every nation, tribe, tongue, and language coming to God, washing their robes, and making them white in the blood of the Lamb. They, therefore, stand before the throne of God forever and ever, praising and worshiping Him for their redemption. These are the saints who come out of the great Tribulation. This statement, found in Revelation, chapter 7, precludes our identifying this group of redeemed ones as the saved of all times as it is often, interpreted. This position is a mistake, because it is plainly stated that this group comes out of the great Tribulation, that period of seven years during which God's judgments are falling upon the world. That these people are saved is evident, because they wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb.
But why, one asks, do we say these 144,000 are the Jewish evangelists who will conduct this mightiest of all revivals? The proof is self-evident. God declared to Abraham that He would bless all nations in and through his seed. While it is true that the seed of Abraham refers to the Messiah, as the seed par excellence, yet the word seed being a collective noun in the singular form, is also plural. This fact is seen in the statement of Genesis 15:5 made to Abraham, that his seed should be as numerous as the stars of the heavens. Thus it is clear that seed, though as a singular collective noun referring to Messiah in Genesis 15:5, also embraces Abraham's literal descendants. Thus we are correct in interpreting Abraham's seed as embracing the Jewish nation. Everything that you and I have of a, spiritual nature has come from God to us through the Jewish people. Since this original promise states that God will bless all nations in Abraham's seed, and since we see the blessing of all nations in the revival mentioned in Revelation 7, we may be certain that those through whom the blessing will come will be these 144,000 Jewish evangelists. Since these servants are sealed, they evidently are serving Him. Naturally then, after giving us a vision of them, John gave an account of the results of their labors, the conversion of an innumerable host, which no one can number, from every nation, tribe, tongue, and language.
Thus the first fruits of this great seed-sowing in Israel will come in the form of the conversion of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, who conduct the world-wide revival. During that revival unnumbered multitudes from all nations, who will constitute the real harvest of which the psalmist speaks (Psalm 126:5,6), will be brought to the Lord. Finally, the gleanings of the harvest will come at the end of the Tribulation, when all Israel will return to the Lord, will accept Him, and will plead for Him to return. Then they, converted Israel, will bring all men to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Now, let me repeat, is the seed-sowing time. The Tribulation and the beginning of the Millennial Age will be the harvest time.
F. The Reward of the Faithful
My friend, do you want to invest in a project that will bring the greatest returns and dividends throughout all eternity? If you do, then join with us in this world-wide seed-sowing in Israel now. Those who assist the ones sowing the seed in Israel will share equally in the rewards that those doing the actual sowing will receive. The reasong for this statement is that “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward: and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward” (Matthew 10:41).
A certain amount of the work will be done by the laborers. For this service they will be rewarded; but those who make it possible for them to accomplish their task will receive just as much of a reward as will those who actually do the work. Thus, my friend, you will receive at the judgment seat of Christ a reward commensurate with the service in which you participate.
The Biblical Research Society is one of the agencies working in the field of Israel by sowing the seed at this crucial moment. Praise God that there are others, both individuals and organizations, likewise sowing the seed. Pray to the Lord of the harvest that He may give you the vision, and enable you to do what you can in this hour of world crisis, at this seed-sowing time. Remember that the seed-sowing time will not continue always. The doors are being closed rapidly in many places. What we intend to do for God in the way of seed-sowing must be done with all dispatch and haste.
G. The Final Question
Dear Christian friend, to whom God has entrusted some of this world's goods. I have a very vital heart-searching question to ask you: “For what purpose did the Lord entrust you with His bounties? Was it simply that you might live in ease and enjoy the comforts of this life? or did He put in your care as a faithful and wise steward or stewardess His goods in order that you might use them for the salvation of souls, for whom He gave His life?” Remember, this question will be asked you when you come before the judgment-seat of Christ: “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (II Corinthians 5:10).
“But, you may reply, “God did not entrust this money to me. I worked hard, laboring into the wee hours of the night, making this money. I have been frugal and have saved, depriving myself on many occasions of the enjoyment of this money.” Did you ever think my dear brother and my sister, that it is God who gives you the power to make money? (Deuteronomy 8:18) Who gives you health, strength, and the opportunity of accumulating what you have? In fact, let me ask you, “What do you have that you did not receive?” The Biblical answer is, “Nothing.” All that you are, and all that you have, have been given you and entrusted to you by the Lord. The facts are that He has given you whatever “talents” you have (Matthew 25:14-30) and the “pounds” you possess (Luke 19:11-28). He expects you to use these in His service.
Those who heed this admonition will not be ashamed when they appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive their eternal rewards. But those who do not heed the warning will be sorely disappointed, being conscious of the fact that they have been unfaithful in administering the talents and the funds which have been entrusted to them to use in His service and to do it with a cheerful, willing spirit.
“Stop laying up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but keep on laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven ...” (Matthew 6:19,20, literal translation).
1 There are some of the Hebrew people who are accepting the Lord Jesus as a result of the work of the Biblical Research Society. But, as is well known, the Jews in large numbers are not now accepting the Saviour. According to the Scriptures this is not the time when they will do that. It is true that throughout the Dispensation of Grace some have seen the truth and accepted the Messiah. Many of these have proved to be great and shining lights for the Lord in their day and time. But results do not necessarily consist only of those who come out and accept Him personally as Saviour. There is a two-fold purpose in the preaching of the gospel, which is set forth in II Corinthians 2:15,16; “For we are a sweet savor of Christ unto God, in them that are saved, and in them that perish; 16 to the one a savor from death unto life to the other a savor from life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?”
We are, of course, delighted whenever anyone is brought to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus; but it is necessary for us to sow the seed in all Israel now in order that it may be watered by the judgments of the Tribulation, and then bring forth the mighty results of the salvation of an innumerable host of people. Thus the amazing results from our work — far beyond our wildest imagination — will come later — in the Tribulation.