What the Bible says about
God Scattered Israel
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Despite this vivid chapter's impressively detailed description of God's personal involvement, does it not appear that, because the world is so evil, Satan has far more to do with affairs on earth than God? Countering that, though, is that God's Word shows Satan has a tight-enough leash on him that he can do only what God permits. The reality is that, despite appearances, God is in complete control.
How can we know this for certain? It depends on whether we are walking by faith or by sight. What does walking by faith signify? It means that our thoughts about life's events and the circumstances they create and our conduct are regulated and carried out based on the Word of God. It is literally and truly our guide.
News reports indicate that the pillars of our culture are crumbling and are clearly out of joint (Psalm 11:3). We know from Bible prophecy that living conditions are going to get worse. With that witness so apparent before our eyes, whom do we believe is regulating affairs on this earth—God or the Devil?
Consider an example that is especially close to many of us. As our former church fellowship blew apart, many said Satan did it. Did he? No, he did not. Saying that Satan did it is nothing more than an easy escape from the reality that we may have had a part in causing its breakup. It is more likely that our Father in heaven took us to the woodshed.
Our perspective on this might simply be ignorance of biblical reality. To anyone who understands what the Bible says, only one Person could do such a thing, and that is our sovereign God. Who scattered Israel? Did Satan? The Bible barely mentions him in this context. God boldly takes credit for scattering Israel directly and the church in symbol in Lamentations 2 and many other places.
What is written in this chapter is one of the things that led to the break-up the Worldwide Church of God, and why its members are scattered all over. Its members forgot a great deal about God's requirements of obedience. This theme of not forgetting runs through the book of Deuteronomy.
Virtually every family of people on earth considers themselves to be the recipients of God's favor. They usually designate themselves by a title to indicate this, especially to themselves. The Germans call themselves Herrenvolk. The Japanese call themselves "sons of heaven." China calls itself "the good earth," and Americans, "God's country."
The Israelites were the recipients of the knowledge of God's purpose, then they were given a land in which to prosper and to use that knowledge. However, whatever Israel received, it was miniscule by comparison to what the church was given. Yet, Israel forgot what God had so graciously bestowed, and what happened to the Israelites? They were scattered to the four corners of the earth. Is it possible, then, that the church forgot what God had given it? It became less and less aware that it, too, had been given the knowledge of God and of His purpose being worked out in its members lives. What did we call ourselves? "God's church"!
However, there is a common byproduct of prosperity: "Lest when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; then your heart be lifted up, and you forget. . . ."
Yes, a common byproduct of prosperity—one that could destroy the gift of knowledge of God's purpose for mankind—is forgetfulness! Pride in one's prosperity can gradually persuade a person that he gained it himself, but the fact is that the real reason for the prosperity is what he was given.
There are a number of reasons for the Old Covenant rituals, but undoubtedly, one of them is to remind the sanctified ones who they are and what they are to do with their lives. They are a separated people, called to make right use of their gifts and to glorify God in the use of them.
Being aware of our separation is supremely important to us because it is one of the few ways that gives sense to why God requires certain things. The laws of clean and unclean meats should be a constant reminder of this separation. So should the removing of leaven from our homes before Unleavened Bread. It is clear from the Old Testament rituals that cleanliness—spiritual, moral, and physical cleanliness—and purity are the realities that differentiate us from the world, making us distinctive from others.
This is something, though, that is so easy to forget or to overlook, which is why God gives this warning in Deuteronomy 8. Being spiritually undefiled or uncontaminated is a responsibility because it is in maintaining the cleanliness that a visible witness is made—one that can be seen and evaluated by the world. If we allow ourselves to run amok with the rest of the world, then we share the world's contamination through sin, and no witness is made. Who can see the difference? There is no difference, or so little difference that it is unrecognizable.
Thus, it is in the efforts to be made clean and to maintain cleanliness that many of the sacrificial aspects of priesthood are most clearly seen.
John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part Two)
The last phrase of verse 28, “as is clear today” (New English Translation [NET]) is an important time marker. The GNT renders it, “where they are today.” The New Living Translation [NLT] has it, “where they still live today.” Translator Robert Alter puts it, “as on this day.”
In the light of that phrase, consider that the people to whom Moses spoke were not then scattered, not uprooted. Their land was not one of “brimstone, salt, and burning debris.” Nor does that description fit the lands to which the Assyrians exiled the ancient House of Israel, for the areas south of the Caspian Sea are reasonably well-watered. Further, the terminology of the passage cannot describe the lands to which Israel migrated, lands that are among the most favored on earth: the productive lands of Northern Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
By using this short phrase, Moses indicates that he speaks of a “generation to come” (verse 22), one in the distant future, even beyond Israel's circumstances today. He is seeing into the time of Jacob's Trouble, when Israel's land, ravaged by war, would become environmentally degraded in the extreme. Only then, in this period of extreme distress, will the lands Israel occupies come to resemble ancient Sodom, destroyed by God long ago (Genesis 19).
Those of the “generation” of which Moses speaks, whether Israelite or Gentile, understand that the vast desolation they witness is the result of Israel's idolatry, in violation of the covenant (verses 25-26). Moses describes a time beyond our present circumstances when God will have “uprooted” apostate Israel from the lands to which He scattered her centuries before, the lands to which ancient Israel migrated. In short, Moses sees a land that has “vomited out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:25).
The verb “uprooted” (verse 28) evokes the striking image of pulling up plants from their roots. It virtually always appears in contexts of God's wrathful action against a sinning people, as in Ezekiel's lamentation for the princes of Israel, recorded in Ezekiel 19:10-14:
Your mother was like a vine in a vineyard planted by the water, fruitful and full of branches by reason of abundant water. Its strong stems became rulers' scepters; it towered aloft among the thick boughs; it was seen in its height with the mass of its branches. But the vine was plucked up in fury, cast down to the ground; the east wind dried up its fruit; they were stripped off and withered. As for its strong stem, fire consumed it. Now it is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty land. And fire has gone out from the stem of its shoots, has consumed its fruit, so that there remains in it no strong stem, no scepter for ruling. (English Standard Version [ESV])
In verse 12, God angrily plucks up the vine whose stems have grown into “rulers' scepters,” towering above others. The image of the highly productive, well-watered vine—perhaps “influential” might fit as well—transplanted into a “dry and thirsty land” (verse 13), is reminiscent of the Sodom-like land Moses mentions in Deuteronomy 29:23.
It is clear, then, that Deuteronomy 29 describes God's future scattering, His uprooting of Israelites from their burned-out land during the time of Jacob's Trouble.
Scattering and Gathering: Images of History and Prophecy (Part One)
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