"There is only one way to God, Jesus said so.
But there are a thousand ways to come to the Messiah." (Ray C. Stedman)

False Prophets and Elders Under Scrutiny

(Ezekiel 13-15)

Forum Class #6

In Ezekiel chapters 8 through 11 we learn the details of a "trip" Ezekiel took in a great vision to Jerusalem, 600 miles to the West. His tour of the temple was conducted by THE Angel of the Lord (a theophany--an OT appearance of the son of God in human form). This vision occurred about four years prior to the actual siege and fall of the city of Jerusalem. We see six angels come to the city and slay the inhabitants in response to the command of The Angel of the Lord. A recording angel clothed in white linen marks those few whose hearts are right with God. The latter group receives special protection from God. After the visionary journey is completed, Ezekiel "returns" to his house in Iraq on the River Chebar. The Lord tells him to review the details of the vision with the elders of Israel. The messages which follow in the next few chapters reflect Ezekiel's renewed understanding of the fate of the city and the reasons why this long-delayed judgment will happen at last.

Commentary from God Strengthens by Derek Thomas (Evangelical Press, UK, 1993)

The Elders (14:1-11)

Ezekiel has denounced idolatry as the root cause of Israel's demise in previous chapters (e.g. 5:9-11; 6:1-14; 8:7-14). Once more he takes up the theme. this time castigating the elders of Israel for their shameful worship of idols. Once again Ezekiel receives a visit from some of the exiled elders in Babylon (14:1; cf. 8: I). We might assume that these elders would be in better spiritual shape than their counterparts in Jerusalem, but that would be a false assumption. They, too, worshiped their idols. even though it was in secret, 'in their hearts' (14:3). No doubt, living in Babylon brought with it its own sources of temptation to idolatry. In addition to what we have already learned about idolatry, some further truths are now underlined.

1. Idolatry can never be hidden from God

He sees into our hearts (I Sam. 16:7). He reads us like an open book. When secret idolaters came to Ezekiel for a word from God he knew what was in their hearts. And what was the prophet to say when such secret idolaters came to him for spiritual counsel? The answer Ezekiel was to give them was that God would answer them 'in keeping with' their idolatry' (14:4). Imagine a quarrelsome child who is arguing with his brother over some trifling object and says, 'Give it to me. It's mine!' The brother refuses, so he comes to you, his parent. and cheekily says, 'Tell him to give it to me!' 'I'll give it to you,' you say in reply and promptly scold him for his cheeky behavior. We get what we ask for. This is a principle we need to learn quickly. And those who ask guidance and direction from an idolatrous god can expect to receive the folly that such an idol will speak. The purpose behind this was to bring them to repentance (14:6).

2. Idolatry is covenant violation and is cursed

Idolaters are guilty of 'separating themselves' from God (14:7). This is the counterpart to what God had done in covenanting to be their God. He had separated them to be his people. He had made (literally, 'cut') a covenant with them. Now, the idolater was to be 'cut off' from God's people; God's face would be 'set ... against that man' (14:8). 'If a person turns away from God to seek idolatrous aid,' says Craigie, 'God in turn will avert his face from that person. When the idolater turns aside, it is sin: when God turns aside, it is death.'

And what if a true prophet is enticed into accepting the bribe which the idolater offers? He, too, is to be cut off (14:9-10). Even true prophets could be enticed away by the lure of money. Many a Christian worker's usefulness has been curtailed by the love of the idol's bribe. No wonder Paul addresses young Timothy: 'For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs' (1 Tim. 6:10). God is purifying his church so that his true people might emerge bearing the covenant relationship of fellowship: 'They will be my people, and I will be their God' (14:11). Amos had likened the process to sifting grain: 'As grain is shaken in a sieve, and not a pebble will reach the ground...' (Amos 9:9). Only the grain drops through, the refuse being screened out to be discarded. Anyone who has eaten rice only to find some pieces of grit in it will know how painful a thing it can be.

Deception and responsibility

Occasionally God is represented as leading people into some delusions. Speaking of false prophets, God says, 'And if the prophet is enticed to utter a prophecy, I the Lord have enticed that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and destroy him from among my people Israel. They will bear their guilt...' (14:9-10 cf. I Kings 22:22-23; 2 Chron. 18:21-22; Jer. 20:7). Several matters come into focus.

1. God is never the author of sin

This principle must always be kept at the forefront of every discussion of providence and sin.

2. God's providence is 'the determinative principle of all human plans and works'

This passage in Ezekiel teaches us, so Calvin assures us, 'that neither impostures nor deceptions arise without God's permission'. If we find this difficult to grasp, he adds: 'Soberly, therefore, and reverently must we judge of God's works, and especially of his secret counsels.'

3. It is not God himself who actually performs the deception

God, in his sovereign control of all things, 'sends forth Satan to fill them with his lies'. God himself cannot deceive: 'God is not a man, that he should lie' (Num. 23:19). 'He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie...' (1 Sam. 15:29). 'God is truthful' (John 3:33; cf. Rom. 3:4; 2 Tim. 3:13; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18; I John 1:5).

4. This is not a mere permission

In the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, God does not merely permit it to happen: 'But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go' (Exod. 4:21). The psalmist speaks of those whose 'hearts he turned to hate his people' (Ps. 105:25). Likewise God sends the Assyrians against Israel with the express command 'to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets' (Isa. 10:6).' From this,' comments Calvin, 'it appears that they had been impelled by God's sure determination.' Thus God 'directs his voice to them but in order that they may become even more blind; he sets forth doctrine but so that they may grow even more stupid; he employs a remedy but so that they may not be healed.' Jesus indicated that his parables had a similar purpose (Matt. 13:11).

5. The sinner is still responsible/or his sin

'They will bear their guilt' (14:10). God's use of means to execute his overall plan and purpose in no way reduces human responsibility. The prophets are never forced contrary to their inclination to deceive. 'However much obscurity there may be in the Word. There is still enough light to convict the conscience of the wicked. So why are these prophets not converted? Calvin cites Augustine and says, 'God could...turn the will of evil men to good because he is almighty. Obviously he could. Why, then, does he not? Because he wills otherwise. Why he wills otherwise rests with him.'

Noah, Daniel and Job (14:12-23)

The chapter ends with yet another prediction of judgment upon Jerusalem. culminating in the, by now, familiar phrases of doom and destruction: 'For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgments -- sword and famine and wild beasts and plague -- to kill its men and their animals!' (14:21). Included in this prophecy are the names of three Old Testament heroes: 'Noah, Daniel, and Job' (14:14)...All three men stood out as godly men in an age of wickedness.

The point of mentioning these three men is to declare a sobering truth: that even if they were to be present in Jerusalem when God's wrath fell upon it, only they would be saved, despite merciful deliverances in the past in Sodom, through Abraham's intervention (Gen. 18:20-33), and in Judah by King Josiah's pleas (2 Kings 22:16-20). Judah and Jerusalem were believed to be invincible. And the presence of folk like Jeremiah, Obadiah and Habakkuk within the city made it, so they surmised, even more so. But though Noah and his family were saved, his generation perished, and Job's righteousness proved of no help to his companions (Job 42:7-8). And, ultimately, the intercessions of Abraham and Josiah proved futile, too. Even if Ezekiel's listeners were at present skeptical as to the fairness of God's actions upon Judah, when the second wave of exiles came among them in the early 580s B.C., they would see, by the prevailing ungodliness of these people, that God's punishments had been right. They would be 'consoled' (a word which can also mean 'to change one's mind') 'regarding the disaster' (14:22) They would testify to the rightness of God's actions (14:23).

Summary: Much of these chapters 13-15 has been concerned to point out the evil work of false prophets and the judgment they can expect. Once more Ezekiel's warnings are falling on deaf ears. Instead of being afraid of the righteous judgments of God, they are complacent, hoping that either Ezekiel is exaggerating his message, or else the prospect of doom is so far into the future they need not be afraid. In reality it was barely four years away. God was already standing at the door and in a moment his wrath would burn against their wicked idolatries. But even in his judging work, God will be glorified: one way or another, they would know that he is the Lord (12:15,16,20; 13:14,21,23; 14:8).

Every Bible teacher knows the value of a really good illustration. It can be a humbling (and irritating) experience that people remember illustrations far better than they do the point of doctrine that is being taught. The Bible uses several kinds of illustration, including allegories -- stories in which the meaning of something is symbolically portrayed, similar in kind to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, which describes the Christian life as a journey to heaven. In the following chapters (17-23) a wide variety of allegories are used. They begin with a grapevine.

The vine (15:1-8)

A gigantic golden vine decorated the temple gates and had grape clusters over six feet long. It was a reminder that Israel was the true vine that God had taken out of Egypt and planted in a choice land (Ps. 80:8-14; Isa. 3:14; 5:1-7). No fewer than five parables of Jesus relate to the figure of a vine: the fig in the vineyard (Luke 13:6-9); the laborers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16); new wine in old wineskins (Man. 9:17); the two sons (Matt. 21:28-32); and the wicked tenants (Matt. 21:33-41; Matt. 12:1-11; Luke 20:9-18). Of even greater significance is Jesus' own allusion to himself as the true vine (John 15:1-7). Despite the cultivation Israel had received as God's vine, they had produced only bitter fruit and were now fit only to be cut down and burned (John 15:6). Ezekiel puts it even more bluntly. Instead of comparing Israel to the grapes themselves, he points out the wood of the vine. Apart from the fact that it is not producing any fruit, the vine itself has no value except for firewood, and even then its value is limited (15:4). Following the devastation of the Assyrian invasion of Israel in 722 B.C. and the Babylonian invasion of Judah in 605 and 598 B.C., 'Israel' was already similar to a piece of charred wood (15:5). If the wood of a vine is too pliable even to be made into a peg (15:3), a half-burnt piece of vine has no use whatsoever. Soon the fire will rekindle (in the third Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.) and the rest of the wood will be consumed (15:7) The allegory was particularly apt for the Babylonians did practice a scorched-earth policy, burning everything in the city once it had been plundered of its treasures (2 Chron. 36:19).

'I am the vine; you are the branches,' Jesus said (John 15:5) What had been pictured in the Old Testament in such passages as Psalm 80:8-9 and Hosea 10:1 was meant to convey a truth that has now emerged in full flower in the New Testament: that Christ together with his people comprise the vine from which the fruit of the Spirit should emerge -- the nine graces which make the Christian believer Christ-like (Gal. 5:22).

The pathetic sight presented by Israel in the sixth century B.C. was a violation of this beautiful image. It had been no different a century and a half earlier:

'I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit' (lsa. 5:1-2).

Two things are essential in producing fruit from a vine: the vine needs to be pruned (John 15:2); and care is also needed to make sure none of the branches are bruised or severed so as to prevent the sap from getting to the growing tips of the branches. In other words, the branches need to abide in the vine (John 15:4-5).

Pruning is what Ezekiel has in mind in verse 3, where dead wood is cut away. This is what he has been talking about in the previous chapters (6:8-10; 7:16; 9:5-8; 11:13-25; 12:14-20). True believers were not spared the temporal judgments God inflicted upon the Israelites. But they were assured that the knife was wielded by a loving Father who would eventually bring his people back to their land.

Pruning can be a ruthless exercise, but its purpose is to promote new and healthy growth from vigorous new shoots. Job spoke about the effect of pruning on a tree:

'There is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant' (Job 14:7-9).

And yet in his own life the pruning had been so severe that he despaired of ever rising again: 'My spirit is broken, my days are cut short...' (Job 17:1).

Many of God's people can echo similar thoughts when severe trials have come into their lives -- divorce, death, a handicapped child. Perhaps a fallen tree has more hope than such as experience these trials. God's pruning shears can be severe. It seems as though nothing lies outside the cutting edge of his will. And yet even Job was to know a time when new life emerged from the broken stump of his life: 'All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought upon him... The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first...' (Job 42: 11-12). Pruning encourages new growth.

As for abiding. Ezekiel has also alluded to this. The vine branches of Israel were 'not useful for anything when it was whole' (15:5). It is a picture of canes that have withered. They produce nothing; they are fit for nothing. And the reason? 'They have been unfaithful' (15:8). They did not abide, or remain, in the covenant relationship. It is (his allusion to unfaithfulness which prepares us for the next allegory (Chapter 16) -- one of the longest in the Scriptures -- the unfaithful bride. 'Remain in me, and I will remain in you' Jesus said. 'No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you...As the Father has "loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love' (John 15:4-10). Abiding, or remaining, in Christ involves focusing on the grace of God in the gospel ('As I have loved you... '), obedience to God's revealed will ('If you obey my commands'), and being 'at home' in God's Word ('My words remain in you...'). These are features that were evidently lacking in the Israelites of Ezekiel's day.

The New Covenant with Israel

Isaiah 59:20-21: "The Redeemer [gaol, the kinsman redeemer] will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," Says the LORD. "As for Me," says the LORD, "this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants' descendants," says the LORD, "from this time and forevermore."

Jeremiah 31:31-37: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah--not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name): "If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the LORD, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever." Thus says the LORD: "If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the LORD.

Jeremiah 32:37-42: "Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. 'They shall be My people, and I will be their God; 'then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. 'And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. 'Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.' "For thus says the LORD: 'Just as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on them all the good that I have promised them.

Ezekiel 11:16-20: "Therefore say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone." "Therefore say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel."' "And they will go there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations from there. "Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.

Ezekiel 16:60-63: "Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. "Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed, when you receive your older and your younger sisters; for I will give them to you for daughters, but not because of My covenant with you. "And I will establish My covenant with you. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, "that you may remember and be ashamed, and never open your mouth anymore because of your shame, when I provide you an atonement for all you have done," says the Lord GOD.'"

Ezekiel 37:21-28: "Then say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; "and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. "They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God. "David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. "Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children's children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. "Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. "My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people."The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore."'"

Hebrews 8: 1-13: Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah--"not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. "None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Covenant Peoples Compared

The nation Israel was chosen by God as a model nation. They were, and still are, set forth on the world stage as God's standard for a nation living "under God." This means that God expects all the elements of society in that nation to reflect the character of Yahweh in word and in deed. The government of Israel was a monarchy--so the king was to study and know the Law of Moses and to serve the Lord as a shepherd over the people, (Deuteronomy 17:14-20, 1 Samuel 8). The Temple services were led by the Levitical priests who were teachers of the Word and spiritual leaders of the people. The seasonal feasts were all designed to remind the entire nation of their commitment to Yahweh, the God who makes and keeps covenants. Businessmen, lawyers, judges and ordinary citizens were all to know and serve the Lord. Every aspect of national life was to be open to inspection by outsiders so that all the nations of the world could see first hand what it is like when an entire people lives in harmony with God.

"Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. 'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel." (Isaiah 19:3-6)

The past failures of Israel are obvious from the Old Testament and from history. But in the book of Isaiah the prophet tells us that Messiah (Jesus) has fulfilled all of the requirements of righteousness, truth and justice on behalf of the entire nation of Israel. Because of Messiah's perfect obedience to Yahweh's covenant with Israel, the entire nation will realize God's original calling and intent for them in a future day--under Messiah's reign. That promised Golden Age for Israel and for mankind is on the near horizon in our day.

The United States does not have a covenant with God as Israel does. (See http://ldolphin.org/IsChUS.html). However the United States will be judged against the standard of true Israel. Eventually the United States--if God allows to remain in existence at all--will be a nation entirely under God--along with restored Israel and other surviving nations when Messiah returns to reign on earth. (See Jesus, Judge of All, http://ldolphin.org/judgment.html).

There is a covenant group within the United States (and elsewhere) which DOES have a covenant with the God of Israel--here and now. That covenant people is the true church of Jesus. Although God's ultimate purpose for Israel is not the same as His calling for the church, He does expect His covenant people, the church, to live separated, holy lives in the midst of a pagan culture. This requirement for holy living is what makes the Old Testament so relevant for Christians today.

"Now all these things [the historical events and judgments recorded in the OT] happened to them [to Israel] as examples, and they were written for our admonition [i.e., for the church]--upon whom the ends of the ages have come." (1 Corinthians 10:11)

God has not changed. Human nature is the same as it has been since Adam. Furthermore God meets people on the same basis now as He always has: by grace through faith.

"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:19-26)

In order for the true church to find and maintain her high and holy calling as God's covenant people, God appoints elders and deacons in local churches. The life of the church can be thought of as having two main threads: teaching and serving. God desires that all his people be taught "the whole counsel of God." As overseers of this calling, mature shepherds (pastor-teachers) guard the quality and content of the teaching of Biblical truth--which should be full-orbed and thorough in every generation. The church also serves by giving and caring, hospitality, and priestly service to the world. By means of these two callings the church is called to reflect the life and character of Jesus in the culture. Not only must the teaching of the church be guarded and assured, the life styles and conduct of God's people need oversight to protect the koinonia--the precious fellowship between God and His people. The covenant people known as the church gather together periodically (on Sunday for example) for renewal with their Lord. But throughout the week God's people are scattered through the lands in which they live (as "salt and light")--representing their Lord and His coming Kingdom among men everywhere.

"Come to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, "Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame." Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, "The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense." They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles" (1 Peter 2:4-12)

Additional Reading:

God's Land - God's People: http://ldolphin.org/land-people.html
The Concept of the Remnant: http://ldolphin.org/Remn.html
Who Owns Jerusalem: http://ldolphin.org/psalm2.html
Notes on Toppling Strongholds: http://ldolphin.org/topple.html
What is a Covenant? http://ldolphin.org/Covn.html
The Main Covenants of Yahweh, http://ldolphin.org/Maincov.html
"Thy Kingdom Come" Prophecy Introduction, http://ldolphin.org/kingdom/
"My People Perish: The Biblically Illiterate Church, http://ldolphin.org/dumbingdown.html

Israel's Blessings and Curses: Deuteronomy 28

Blessings: 'Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. 2 'And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God: 3 'Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. 4 'Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. 5 'Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 6 'Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. 7 'The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. 8 'The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you. 9 'The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. 10 'Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you. 11 'And the LORD will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. 12 'The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. 13 'And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. 14 'So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

Curses: 15 'But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: 16 'Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country. 17 'Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 18 'Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. 19 'Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. 20 'The LORD will send on you cursing, confusion, and rebuke in all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, because of the wickedness of your doings in which you have forsaken Me. 21 'The LORD will make the plague cling to you until He has consumed you from the land which you are going to possess. 22 'The LORD will strike you with consumption, with fever, with inflammation, with severe burning fever, with the sword, with scorching, and with mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish. 23 'And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron. 24 'The LORD will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed. 25 'The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them; and you shall become troublesome to all the kingdoms of the earth. 26 'Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away. 27 'The LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, with tumors, with the scab, and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed. 28 'The LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of heart. 29 'And you shall grope at noonday, as a blind man gropes in darkness; you shall not prosper in your ways; you shall be only oppressed and plundered continually, and no one shall save you. 30 'You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall lie with her; you shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it; you shall plant a vineyard, but shall not gather its grapes. 31 'Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you shall not eat of it; your donkey shall be violently taken away from before you, and shall not be restored to you; your sheep shall be given to your enemies, and you shall have no one to rescue them. 32 'Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, and your eyes shall look and fail with longing for them all day long; and there shall be no strength in your hand. 33 'A nation whom you have not known shall eat the fruit of your land and the produce of your labor, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually. 34 'So you shall be driven mad because of the sight which your eyes see. 35 'The LORD will strike you in the knees and on the legs with severe boils which cannot be healed, and from the sole of your foot to the top of your head. 36 'The LORD will bring you and the king whom you set over you to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods--wood and stone. 37 'And you shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword among all nations where the LORD will drive you. 38 'You shall carry much seed out to the field but gather little in, for the locust shall consume it. 39 'You shall plant vineyards and tend them, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. 40 'You shall have olive trees throughout all your territory, but you shall not anoint yourself with the oil; for your olives shall drop off. 41 'You shall beget sons and daughters, but they shall not be yours; for they shall go into captivity. 42 'Locusts shall consume all your trees and the produce of your land. 43 'The alien who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower. 44 'He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail. 45 'Moreover all these curses shall come upon you and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. 46 'And they shall be upon you for a sign and a wonder, and on your descendants forever. 47 'Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, 48 'therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you. 49 'The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 'a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favor to the young. 51 'And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks, until they have destroyed you. 52 'They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the LORD your God has given you. 53 'You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the LORD your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you. 54 'The sensitive and very refined man among you will be hostile toward his brother, toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the rest of his children whom he leaves behind, 55 'so that he will not give any of them the flesh of his children whom he will eat, because he has nothing left in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates. 56 'The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because of her delicateness and sensitivity, will refuse to the husband of her bosom, and to her son and her daughter, 57 'her placenta which comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of everything in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates. 58 'If you do not carefully observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, THE LORD YOUR GOD, 59 'then the LORD will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues--great and prolonged plagues--and serious and prolonged sicknesses. 60 'Moreover He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you. 61 'Also every sickness and every plague, which is not written in this Book of the Law, will the LORD bring upon you until you are destroyed. 62 'You shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of heaven in multitude, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God. 63 'And it shall be, that just as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess. 64 'Then the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known--wood and stone. 65 'And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. 66 'Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life. 67 'In the morning you shall say, 'Oh, that it were evening!' And at evening you shall say, 'Oh, that it were morning!' because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see. 68 'And the LORD will take you back to Egypt in ships, by the way of which I said to you, 'You shall never see it again. 'And there you shall be offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.'