12 “Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” 13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:12–14, NKJV)
Like Israel at the Red Sea, sometimes we have trouble waiting on the Lord and trusting His salvation. After witnessing God’s great judgments upon Egypt through the miraculous plagues, just days later Israel complained when the enemy’s army approached (Exodus 14:11-12). Moses told them to replace their fear with faith in the Lord’s power and presence, for He would fight for them. That day they would see the salvation of the Lord – and they did. God told Israel to “go forward,” and He protected them and delivered them as they did (v. 15-22, 29-30). Having been saved from our past sins in Christ, Christians are told to press forward in faith, not draw back in fear (Philippians 3:12-14; Hebrews 10:35-39; 12:1-2). Our enemy, the devil, will tempt us with sin and trials, trying to discourage and defeat us. Keep doing God’s will by trusting Him and the power of His word. Be faithful and go forward, never backwards, “for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them (2 Timothy 3:13–14, NKJV)
In yesterday’s Sword Tips (#1599) we learned the gospel teaches God’s people are no longer identified by their flesh, but by their faith (Romans 2:28-29). Now, let us apply what we learned. God’s word of truth informs us that the physical nation of Israel is no longer the chosen people of God. Therefore, any religious doctrine that elevates the nation of Israel to “chosen” or “promised” status is necessarily mistaken. For example, a widely held view is that Christ will return to earth and return the nation of Israel to its promised land (even though God fulfilled that promise long ago, Joshua 21:43). Scripture says we will meet the Lord in the air, not on the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Another doctrine some teach says every nation will be judged by God based on how it treats the nation of Israel. The judgment of the last great day will be individual, not national (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15). False doctrines concerning Israel deceive many souls. Today, it is one of the nations of the world, but the word of God gives it no superior standing among the nations. Every nation is under the rule of Jesus Christ, and every person who rejects Him as Messiah is lost in sin (1 Timothy 6:15; John 8:23-24). “In every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:35).
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28–29, NKJV)
The gospel of Christ makes no fleshly distinctions when identifying the chosen people of God. The text before us is very clear. The gospel of Christ does not identify a Jew by outward circumcision, but by the inward circumcision of the heart. In Christ “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). God’s “chosen generation” today is His church that is composed of Christians, whether Jew or Gentile in the flesh, it makes no difference to God (1 Peter 2:9; Acts 15:9). Scripture says, “nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham” (Romans 9:7). Any doctrine that elevates any race of people above another has distorted the gospel of Christ and the salvation it extends to all, regardless of whether they are a Jew or a Gentile (Romans 1:16-17). Fleshly Israel was told to “circumcise the foreskin of your heart” (Deuteronomy 10:16). In Christ, it is the circumcision of Christ – the cutting away of “the body of the sins of the flesh” (which occurs in baptism) – that identifies a person as a child of God (Colossians 2:11-13).
7 Thus He showed me: Behold, the Lord stood on a wall made with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand. 8 And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said: “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore.” (Amos 7:7–8, NKJV)
Amos’ message was far from positive. God’s prophet had a dreadful message of punishment for the northern kingdom of Israel. Instead of standing upright against idolatry, immorality and injustice, they had participated in them. God’s plumb line, His truth, was in the midst of Israel, and they were not straight. God had repeatedly called them to repentance, but they would not return to Him. It was time to meet God (Amos 4:12). God’s word remains the standard of morality, teaching and faith. Everyone is judged by it (John 12:48-50; Romans 2:16; Revelation 20:12). God is longsuffering toward sinners, calling them through the gospel to repent (2 Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4). But, God is also just. His day of wrath will come, and we dare not have an impenitent heart toward His judgment (Romans 2:2-5). Like Israel, the church today is under threat of compromise with sin. Many have already accepted the world’s values and practices. The house of God will not escape judgment when we fail to stand upright and be faithful to the word of God (1 Peter 4:17-18). God’s plumb line is in the midst of His people (Galatians 1:6-10; 2 John 9).
23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. 24 Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. 25 But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king. (1 Samuel 12:23–25, NKJV)
Israel had demanded a king to be like the nations around her. With stern warnings against their hard hearts and disobedience to God’s law, Samuel anointed Saul to be king of Israel at God’s direction. The prophet would continue to do his work even though many were abandoning God and His law. In verse 23 Samuel reminds us we cannot allow the sins of others to lead us into sin and its carelessness toward our spiritual duty. Like Samuel, we must continue to pray and teach God’s will. As hearers of God’s word, we must fear Him and serve Him in truth with hearts given fully to Him (verse 24). The great things God has done for us compels our earnest, faithful service. Samuel’s warning in verse 25 remains relevant today. If we disobey God and persist in wickedness we will be punished. Israel was punished for her sins. When God’s people do wickedly and refuse to repent, punishment from God is just and sure (Romans 2:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
7 The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. 8 They eat up the sin of My people; They set their heart on their iniquity. 9 And it shall be: like people, like priest. So I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their deeds. 10 For they shall eat, but not have enough; They shall commit harlotry, but not increase; Because they have ceased obeying the Lord. (Hosea 4:7–10, NKJV)
The northern kingdom of Israel was in the throes of spiritual adultery. The nation was unfaithful to Jehovah with the idols of the land. Immorality and selfish oppression of others was the order of the day. Sin increased daily, even as did the scarcity of their daily provisions. Famine, drought, plagues, pestilence, and warfare had not turned Israel back to God (Amos 4:6-11). Their hearts were set on sin. The priests taught the people what they wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3-4). So, God was ready to punish them for their sinful conduct (Amos 4:12). We must turn our hearts to God fully and be faithful to Him alone. Then He will bless us. Otherwise, judgment is certain.
11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:11–13, NKJV)
The fleshly circumcision that identified Israel as God’s covenant people was an operation performed “in the flesh by hands” (v. 11). Removing the foreskin was a foreshadowing of the “circumcision of Christ,” which is “the putting off of the body of the sins of flesh” – the operation God performs when a sinner is “buried with Him (Christ, jrp) in baptism” (Colossians 2:11-12). Baptism is an action of faith in the power of God that saves the sinner and raises him or her to spiritual life in Christ (Colossians 2:12). Whether you are a Jew or Gentile in the flesh does not matter. In this gospel age, one is not a child of God until the circumcision of Christ occurs in the heart, as the sinner is buried with Christ in baptism and God forgives his or her sins by the blood of Christ (Colossians 2:13). That is when the sinner rises from spiritual death to walk in newness of life.