Thursday, September 1, 2016

God’s People Often Displease Him – 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16

[The Jews (1 Thess 2:14),] who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. (NIV)

The Jews are God’s chosen people. There can be no doubt that they exist today because God has chosen them and He is still going to do a great work among them. Deuteronomy 7:6-11 is His affirmation that He not only chose them but told them why He chose them. It wasn’t because they were a great nation but because He loves them. He promised His love would be steadfast for a thousand generations if they loved Him and obeyed Him. That is essentially forever. However, in explaining His love for them He also warned them that He would destroy those who hate Him. He called them His treasured possession (Deut 14:1). 

Israel didn’t do very well in keeping God’s commands. As a result, the country was divided into Israel and Judah. Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria and God told Judah that He was going to destroy Judah because of their sins (Isa 43:28). At this point it would seem that God had un-chosen His people. However, on the heels of His prophecy, God speaks tp all His chosen people, “But now listen, O Jacob, My servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen” (Isa 44:1 NASU). He then extends His promise to the future after their captivity and ultimately to the millennial reign of Jesus after His return. God’s promise of punishment for Israel’s disobedience has been fulfilled over and over, yet through all these failures, God reiterates His promise to them for a future with Him.

“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him.” (Mal 3:17 NKJV)

Israel was partially restored after the Babylonian captivity but their struggles with being obedient to God continued. The last book of the Old Testament is Malachi. It was written about 400 years BC and there was no other prophetic word from God until the arrival of Jesus. Near the end of the book, the Lord assured those in Israel who feared the Lord and meditated on His name (Mal 3:16) that they are His. This promise extends to the “Day of the Lord” when God’s judgment will devour all the wicked (Mal 4:1). Nothing has changed in God’s promise for Jews from Deuteronomy through Malachi. They don’t have a blank check to do evil and the promise hinges on their relationship with God. He promised them that when He punished them and scattered them to the nations, “from there you will search again for the Lord your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him” (Deut 4:29 NLT).

Jesus’ Displeasure

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. (Matt 23:13 RSV)

Between the time of Malachi and Jesus’ arrival, the Jewish religious system developed into a legalistic system that was a far cry from what Jesus preached. He condemned those who would immerse people in that system so that they believed all they had to do to please God was follow all the Mitzvot or Commandments. This list of 613 Commandments was later compiled by Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, one of the greatest medieval Jewish scholars.[1] The Jewish religious system had substituted this legalism for the worship of idols that had been the downfall of their ancestors. 

Reading through the Sermon on the Mount, you can see how Jesus changed the way we should look at obedience to God from external behavior to an inward change of heart. He repeated the phrase, “You have heard that it was said” (ESV) citing the Law and following it by saying, “But I say to you” (ESV) with an explanation of what our heart attitude should be. He did this for anger (Matt 5:21-26), lust (Matt 5:27-30, divorce (Matt 5:31-32), oaths (Matt 5:33-37), retaliation (Matt 5:38-42), and loving our enemies (Matt 5:38-47). Jesus wasn’t displeased only with His own countrymen but His displeasure will also be against all who have substituted devotion to God for other things. At the judgment those who thought they were doing all the right stuff but neglected Jesus will suffer (Matt 25:31-46).

God’s Wrath on Them

Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen. (Rev 1:7 NASB)

Paul affirms that there will be wrath upon those Jews who fail to recognize Jesus, just as it will fall on any others who reject Jesus. When He comes again, all who have “pierced” Him will mourn because they have not embraced the Savior. Rather, because of our sins, we have caused Him to be crucified. Even though it was God’s  plan to come to the earth in the person of Jesus and die on the cross in atonement for our sins (Acts 2:23), He does not hold us free from guilt if we don’t turn to Him in repentance and ask for forgiveness. 

But what is this wrath of God that will come upon Jews? To discover what that is all about we need to go back to the Old Testament. God describes the return of Jesus in Zechariah 13 – 14. It isn’t going to be a pleasant time for much of the world or for Israel. At that time Israel will be a nation, perhaps just as we see today. It will be a people that still have not embraced Jesus as Messiah. When Jesus comes back again, He will completely clean up the nation. He will get rid of all idol worship and false prophets. In this process He says, “’Two-thirds of the people in the land will be cut off and die,’ says the Lord. ‘But one-third will be left in the land’” (Zech 13:8 NLT). He will use the nations of the world to march against and destroy Jerusalem leaving only one half in the city (Zech 14:1).

On that day his feet shall stand  on  the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and  the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west. (Zech 14:4 ESV)

When Jesus comes back, He comes to the defense of those left in the land. He destroys all who have tried to wipe out His people. Jesus saves Jews from every tribe (Zech 12:7-14), but the sad part is that only a third are left alive to worship Jesus  and that is what they will do year after year (Zech 14:16). 

Don’t Be Conceited

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved. (Rom 11:25-26 NIV)

Conceited Gentiles believe they are now the only ones that are God’s chosen people. This leads to anti-Semitism and open season to persecute Jews. They don’t realize that it is only because of the Jews that we are saved. Jesus came as a Jew. It is through the Jews that we have the foundation for our belief, the Old Testament. Without the heritage that we have gained through Jews, we would still be lost. We tend to think we are better than Jews since God partially hardened them to allow us to come into His kingdom; we should be eternally grateful that God has included us. We should have the same attitude towards Jews as did Paul when he says, “My heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation (Rom 10:1 NASU). If you have any doubts about what our attitude should be toward Jews, then read Romans 10 – 11. If we don’t have the right attitude toward them, then we will displease God as well.

God Ensures Jewish Existence

I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Gen 12:3 NKJV)

When God called Abram, He gave him a promise. That promise has been kept throughout history. It has been repeated in several ways at various times. Even before God punished Judah for their idolatry, He promised that those who opposed them in anger or without cause would be disgraced, ashamed, and perish (Isa 41:11). After their return from captivity the promise was renewed when He said the nations that attack Jerusalem will stagger and hurt themselves trying to attack it (Zech 12:2-3). Certainly, God has brought His wrath upon Jews many times and He used other nations to do it.

A period of seventy sets of seven has been decreed for your people and your holy city to finish their rebellion, to put an end to their sin, to atone for their guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place. (Dan 9:24 NLT)

God sent the angel Gabriel to Daniel with an outline of the future. That future provided a timeline for the Jews to usher in the kingdom of God. While being cryptic, it conveyed the idea that there would be a specific amount of time allotted to Israel to accomplish this. Because we can look back on history, it is possible for us to decipher the code of “seventy sets of seven” or seventy “weeks” as other translations say. From the time that Jerusalem would be allowed to be rebuilt until the appearance of the Messiah, would be sixty-nine sets of years (Dan 9:25). We know when the decree was issued and we know when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. It is no coincidence that this is 434 years, or sixty-two sets of seven years.[2] Jesus’ death is predicted at this time (Dan 9:26). 

That leaves just seven years for Jews to complete their God-assigned task. Of course, we know that Jesus made the atonement for guilt and has brought us everlasting righteousness, but Israel is still in a state of rebellion against God and will be until they embrace Jesus. The nation is almost completely secular even though they enforce the Sabbath. It appears that there is a huge gap in time from Jesus’ appearance until now and the gap will continue until the events of this last “week.” I believe this last week is the time God has given to Gentiles to be saved (Rom 11:25). Some call this the church age. This last week is still in our future. It is the time that God will restore the nation of Israel and it will live in peace because of a treaty with “the prince who is to come” (Dan 9:26 ESV). It is during this last seven years that God will work a miracle in the hearts of Jews and the third who are left will be saved both physically and spiritually (Zech 13:8-9). 

Christians Also Displease God

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Eph 4:30 RSV)

Jews don’t have a corner on displeasing God. Often, we are warned about displeasing God. Every time God rebuked Israel, it was an example that we can apply to our own lives. Every time God warned he scribes and the Pharisees, He was warning us as well. We grieve the Holy Spirit every time we sin. However, the Church has a long history of doing the same abominable things that the Jews did to Paul, and worse! Different sects of Christianity have slaughtered countless people of different sects since Christians started confusing politics with righteousness[3] and holiness with killing those who had even different doctrines of issues such as baptism. Early Reformers like Calvin and Zwingli supported infant baptism while Anabaptists refuted it in favor of adult baptism. The viciousness of the difference led to the execution of Anabaptist, often by drowning to mock their belief.[4] Zwingli was so legalistic that he removed the organ from his church because he couldn’t find that instrument in Scripture,[5] yet his legalism didn’t include listening to Jesus’ command to love his enemies. He was willing to go to war against Catholics.

The point of this is simply that we must not look back at history to condemn Jews for displeasing God. Christians have done the same thing in the past and we do it individually all the time. Rather than finding someone to blame we need to pay attention to what Peter said, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17 NASB). We first need to clean up our act. We need to see what displeases God and that is done by applying what Jesus said to our own lives instead of pointing fingers at those Jesus chastised (Jews or religious establishments). Secondly, we need to have compassion on those who are outside of the Christian faith. They need the Gospel and not our legalist interpretation of it. The ultimate of God’s displeasure is when we prevent others from hearing and responding to the Gospel.

[1] Tracey R. Rich, “A List Of the 613 Mitzvot (Commandments),” Judaism 101, 2011, accessed August 24, 2016,
[2] Note that to arrive at the correct date requires converting Israel’s 360-day years to 365-day years that we use.
[3] J.A. Sheppard, Christendom at the Crossroads: the Medieval Era (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), Kindle 194-198, Kindle.
[4] Mark A. Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012), 184.
[5] Ibid.

1 comment:

  1. Ray's reminder that it displeases God when we clasp the ears of those who need to hear the Gospel or whose faith is wavering (Jude 22) refreshed my focus today. Overflowing thankfulness for this meditation.