The incomparable wisdom of the Lord is on heightened display through the ways He incorporated Gentiles into His perfect plan. As scripture declares, the Lord uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and Paul spoke abundantly about the mysterious ways of God, many of which involved leveraging improbable sources and unlikely people to accomplish His desired results. Within His plan to deliver humanity, Jewish and Gentile (non-Jewish) nations were pitted against one another so that the mercy and grace of God could be thoroughly demonstrated and coveted by both. In the end, the aim of the Almighty was always to reveal that every man is subject to the controlling curse of sin, yet capable of being saved by the power and grace of God. By being Israel’s captors at the time of their Judgment, Rome was in prime position to benefit from the covenants mishandled by the Jews. Israel’s loss was Rome’s gain, but not without proper perspective. Thus, the book of Romans is full of scripture that informs biblical readers, namely Gentiles, of the valuable of God’s plan and the reason for the rift between Jews and Gentiles.
Romans 11:28, 32
“28As concerning the gospel, they [Israel] are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes … 32For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.”
Through the tumultuous relationship between Israel and other peoples who aren’t a part of their physical covenants, the Lord illustrates both “His goodness and severity” (Romans 11:22). He highlights His mercy and grace upon the undeserving and justly exhibits His wrath. Israel had been the darling recipients of grace for thousands of years, while Gentiles had consistently fallen victim to the mysterious and superior power of that divine influence upon the Israelites. But during the season of Dan, the tables would turn, and the period which followed the earthly work of Christ would illustrate the unthinkable ways that God intended to incorporate the Gentiles into the performance of His will.
A History of Ups and Down
In the period of Dan, the Lord caused Israel suffering at the hands Rome, a nation they viewed as an enemy, and this wasn’t the first time God would use a gentile nation to judge His elect people. Throughout the word, the Lord frequently showed His willingness to use Gentile nations like the Babylonians, Philistines and Assyrians to bring a useful oppression upon His elect when they became rebellious as a nation. They were useful in their capacity to remind Israel of their need for the Lord. As instruments of punishment, the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah often referred to these Gentiles as God’s “hammer,” “rod,” “axe,” or “weapon of war.”
How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!
“5O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. 6I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.”
As we discussed in earlier chapters about the Lord’s sovereignty, those who are privileged recipients of grace often need a good reminder that their own success and well-being is created by God rather than themselves, and scripture is full of examples. Egypt and Pharaoh were raised and hardened by God that His name might be proclaimed throughout all the earth (Exodus 9:16). Israel’s ultimate escape from the bitter persecution of Egypt should have produced a heart of thanksgiving on account of their impossible deliverance into liberty, yet they returned to their sinful ways. Today’s christians are no different. We are subject to ungratefulness and prone to take our grace for granted. Even in the present time, the Lord will often grant victory and authority to secular rulers in order keep His children humble.
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
Remind people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready and willing to do good,
The entire book of Judges features Israel’s sin cycles, and the obvious pattern is on full display. God would deliver the Jews; they would return to sin again; God would God elevate a Gentile adversary to suppress their iniquity; He would deliver them again, proving His love and mercy by delivering them from those adversaries through judges—vessels used to restore justice. This pattern is not limited to the book of Judges, but it is basically the story of the Jews.
Later in Israel’s history, Assyria was empowered by God to conquer Israel (the Northern Kingdom since Israel was then divided into two parts) as discipline for their idols and graven images (Isaiah 10). Even later, Babylon was raised to rule over Israel (Both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah) for many years due to their continued disobedience to God’s instructions. Then as foretold by an angel of the Lord responding to the prophet, Daniel’s dreams, Persia would reign over Israel’s territory followed by Greece.
18While he was speaking with me, I fell into a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me, helped me to my feet, 19and said, “Behold, I will make known to you what will happen in the latter time of wrath, because it concerns the appointed time of the end. 20The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21The shaggy goat represents the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king.
Somehow, through all of the Gentile nations which God caused to rule harshly over Israel, this stubborn nation continued to hold on to the prideful hope that their nation would return to the power and prominence of Solomon’s day. The character of Simeon, Levi and the brethren at Shechem was unyielding throughout the old testament period, and Israel continued in its attempts to keep outsiders outside of a covenant intended to benefit them. Because of Israel’s stubborn pride, the arrival of Jesus was expected by many Israelites to catapult them into a long awaited triumph over their enemies, but the mission of Christ was to establish His spiritual kingdom, not their physical one.
“36Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”
“6When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”
Overall there are two primary lessons to extract from the carousel of kingdoms which ruled Israel:
For the elect people of God, forced submission to ungodly rulers is place divinely intended to teach them unity. For the nations used to teach that lesson, their place of authority is an opportunistic period to benefit from the favor held by the elect. Their period of mercy lasts until they begin to consider themselves greater than the God who granted them power.
In the book of Jeremiah and so many places throughout the old covenant, the Lord has promised to restore the fortunes of Israel, and that future has yet to be fully realized. The days of Israel’s exile and the Gentile reign over their territory are indeed numbered.
Jeremiah 30:1-11, 18-19 NASB
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 2 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book. 3 For behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel and Judah.’ The Lord says, ‘I will also bring them back to the land that I gave to their forefathers, and they shall take possession of it.’” 4 Now these are the words which the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah: 5 “For this is what the Lord says: ‘[a]I have heard a sound of terror, Of fear, and there is no peace. 6 Ask now, and see If a male can give birth. Why do I see every man With his hands on his waist, as a woman in childbirth? And why have all faces turned pale? 7 Woe, for that day is great, There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s distress, Yet he will be saved from it. 8 ‘It shall come about on that day,’ declares the Lord of armies, ‘that I will break his yoke from [b]their necks and will tear to pieces [c]their restraints; and strangers will no longer make [d]them their slaves. 9 But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. 10 And do not fear, Jacob My servant,’ declares the Lord, ‘And do not be dismayed, Israel; For behold, I am going to save you from far away, And your [e]descendants from the land of their captivity. And Jacob will return and be at peace, without anxiety, And no one will make him afraid. 11 For I am with you,’ declares the Lord, ‘to save you; For I will completely destroy all the nations where I have scattered you, Only I will not destroy you completely. But I will discipline you fairly And will by no means leave you unpunished.’ … 18 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob And have compassion on his dwellings; And the city will be rebuilt on its ruins, And the palace will stand on its rightful place. 19 From them will come a song of thanksgiving And the voices of those who [i]celebrate; And I will multiply them and they will not decrease; I will honor them and they will not be insignificant.
The Lord will indeed “restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob,” but at this point in history, Rome was determined, by God to be Israel’s next ruling nation.
As headstrong as Israel had remained through it all, it would take even more to break their will. In a profound prophesy from Jesus Himself, He described a coming time when Jerusalem, the capital of their nation, would be destroyed by the empire of Rome.
41And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
When the Romans first arrived, their focus was on the Greeks who were in control of the region’s territory, including Israel. In their victory over the Greek empire, Rome initially granted Israel a level of self-governance under their rule, but this arrangement did not satisfy this historically proud and aggressive people. Clinging to their materialistic interpretations of Abraham’s covenant, the Israelites continued to pursue their own exaltation with such recklessness that they betrayed and murdered their own Savior. A number of rebellions and uprisings continued long after Jesus’ death, leading to the unavoidable fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy. In AD 70, the Roman general Titus laid waste to Jerusalem and leveled their temple to the ground, and the sacred building which represented Israel’s hopes of a return to prominence was destroyed by an enemy in ways their arrogance presumed was improbable.
This was no ordinary war (none is for that matter), but this loss carried both physical and spiritual implications. The Jewish temple belonging to the Jews was a token of the covenant given to Abraham. To them, it distinguished their heritage and symbolized their exclusivity with God along with the benefits of His protection. Its existence was intended to be a beacon of their future, but they made it the object of it. Therefore, it’s destruction, allowed by God for a second time at the hands of enemy nations should have spoken volumes against their continued attempts at nationalistic, religious supremacy. A moment of humility would have allowed them see that their entire covenant possession was never meant to be manipulated into an opportunity to advance their pride, yet again. This event in History dealt a devastating blow to the nation and pride of Israel. To a people which dwelt under Elohim’s covenant for millennia, losing spiritual preferential treatment to their foe for an extended season would now become a reality.
According to the divinely inspired vision of King Nebuchadnezzar, Rome is also involved or connected to the final Gentile season. The season of the Gentiles has an expiration that has already been determined, and it ends with the kingdom symbolized by feet of iron and clay.
Daniel 2:31-35, 44-45
31Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. 32This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. 34Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. 35Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. … 44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. 45Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
At the conclusion of the Gentile’s period of grace, God will bring closure to his work in the Jews and Gentiles, and the deliverance promised by Jeremiah and other prophets will be realized.
25For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
At the end of it all, Dan is proof that God’s hand of judgment is forced by the heights of homegrown iniquity.
This is also the critical lesson to be extracted by the church. The same ways and reasons for which Christ came to judge Israel are the same for which He will return again. Israel made a mockery of God’s laws, and they serve as an example of how not to handle a spiritual covenant with the Lord.
“The citizens of Jerusalem believe that these omens are idle, whatever oaths have been sworn. But he is evidence of their crimes, and these will bring about their capture. As for you, prince of Israel, vile criminal on the last of whose crimes the day is about to dawn, the Lord God says this: They will take away your turban and remove your crown; everything will be changed; the low will be high and the high brought low. To ruin, and to ruin on ruin, am I going to bring it, to such ruin as was never known before this man came who is appointed to inflict the punishment which I am determined to impose on it.”