Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Praying earnestly for the conversion of the Jews

When we pray according to the principle 'thy kingdom come' we will be praying for specific events. The Larger Catechism helpfully expounds this. 'we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel officers and ordinances, purged from corruption,countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate: that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted'. In the midst of this is the conversion of the Jews, a standard feature of the Puritan outlook on the future.

The Anglican minister and poet George Herbert has a poem which breathes the prayer for the restoration and conversion of the Jews. It partakes of the spirit of Romans 11, that the Gentiles would not be high-minded but fear and be humbled by the temporary rejection of the Jews in God's sovereign purpose. The poem shows that it was not simply a puritan view but widely held and not questioned by the time of the Westminster Assembly. Expositors of the same Jacobean period as Herbert have a similar view. Andrew Wilier writes "The Gentiles should shew themselves unthankfull to insult against the foote, which did beare the branches", Hexapla in Danielera: That is, a Six-fold Commentarie upon the most Divine Epistle of the holy Apostle S. Paul to the Romanes (London, 1620), p. 187. Elnathan Parr preached that ,"God is infinitely good who out of the generall evill, the sinne of the Jewes, can bring so great good, as the salvation of the Gentiles and Jewes." The Workes of that faith full and painefull Preacher Mr. Elnathan Parr (London, 1632, 3rd edn.), p. 173. The famous interpreter of unfulfilled prophecy, Joseph Mede was at Christ's College during Herbert's residence at Trinity and during the latter's function as University Orator. Both men evidently met since Mede describes in a letter the evening of 12 March 1623 when Herbert delivered a speech before King James I. Lancelot Andrewes in his Devotions prayed for the conversion of "Gentiles, Turks and Jews". John Donne likewise praised St. Paul's concern for the Jews. Nicholas Ferrar, wrote in his Acta Apostolorum Elegantis of his hope for the conversion of the Jews.

The trump to which Herbert refers is not the last trump of the second coming but one of the seven trumpets sounded in Revelation. He appears to say that their conversion will come at a time of revival when the Church is agonising in prayer for their conversion.

Poore nation, whose sweet sap and juice
Our cyens have purloin'd, and left you drie:
Whose streams we got by the Apostles sluce,
And use in baptisme, while ye pine and die:
Who by not keeping once, became a debter;
And now by keeping lose the letter.

Oh that my prayers! mine, alas!
Oh that some Angel might a trumpet sound;
At which the Church falling upon her face
Should crie so loud, untill the trump were drown'd,
And by that crie of her deare Lord obtain,
That your sweet sap might come again!

In the Westminster Assembly's Directory for the Publick Worship of God (1644) ministers were directed to pray for 'the conversion of the Jews, the fullness of the Gentiles, the fall of Antichrist, and the hastening of the second coming of our Lord; for the deliverance of the distressed churches abroad from the tyranny of the antichristian faction, and from the cruel oppressions and blasphemies of the Turk; for the blessing of God upon the reformed churches, especially upon the churches and kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland, now more strictly and religiously united in the Solemn National League and Covenant'.

William Greenhill wrote: 'The conversion of the Jews we may warrantably expect and pray for. God hath promised to gather the children of Israel, and to bring them to David their king, that is, Christ: I will gather them out of every side ; I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen whither they be gone; and one king shall rule over them. Seeing God hath promised to do it, we may believe and pray for the same. This conversion of the Jews will be not of some few particulars, but national, though not of every one belonging to the nation. Hos. 3:5, "The children of Israel shall return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days:" there will be a very general, glorious, and visible return of them; they will prove eminent Christians, fearing the Lord and his goodness. Paul hints unto you, that there is a time when the vail shall be taken off the heart of the Jews, and they turn unto the
Lord, 2 Cor. 3:15,16.'

Thomas Boston also write: 'A day is coming in which there shall be a national salvation of the Jews. The Jews, now blinded and rejected, shall at length come into the faith of Christ and join themselves to the Christian Church. There are many promises of this in the Old Testament, but I shall confirm it from Romans 11 where the Apostle purposely insists upon it...Believe it and help it on by your prayers. Ply the throne of grace earnestly for it. Join cordially in the public prayers for it and remember it in your family and secret prayers.'

As Boston points out there are a multitude of promises connected with the conversion of the Jews. Here is the collection gathered by Samuel Clarke in his treasury of Bible promises

"And men shall dwell in it [that is, all the land], and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited" (Zechariah 14:11). See the whole chapter.

"Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger [Sodom and Samaria, verse 55]: and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant" (Ezekiel 16:60, 61). See also verses 62, 63.

"Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel" (Hosea 1:10, 11).

"And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me. And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness. Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, The two families which the LORD hath chosen, he hath even cast them off? thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them. Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them" (Jeremiah 33:7-9, 15, 16, 24-26). To the same purpose see the whole chapter. See also chapter 50:4, 5, 19, 20.

"I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men. The breaker is come up before them: they have broken up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone out by it: and their king shall pass before them, and the LORD on the head of them" (Micah 2:12, 13).

"I will multiply upon you [the mountains of Israel] man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD. I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded" (Ezekiel 36:11, 24-26, 33). See the whole chapter; also chapter 37.

"Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24).

"And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever" (Ezekiel 37:25).

"I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: In mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things" (Ezekiel 20:34, 35, 37, 38, 40). See also verses 41, 44.

"Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul" (Jeremiah 32:41). See from verse 37 to the end.

"And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it. And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid. And I will raise up for them a plant of renown" (Ezekiel 34:23, 24, 28, 29). See also verses 11, 16, and from verse 22 to the end of the chapter.

"Behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies" (Hosea 2:14, 15, 19). See from verse 16 to the end.

"Even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away" (2Corinthians 3:15, 16).

"Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD. And the LORD shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again" (Zechariah 2:10, 12).

"Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth. And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands" (Micah 5:3, 4, 7, 13). See the whole chapter, chapter 4, and chapter 7:14, 17. See also Zeph. 3:9, to the end.

"Upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD'S" (Obadiah 1:17, 21).

"The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days" (Hosea 3:4, 5).

"Behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more. Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation" (Joel 3:1, 2, 17, 20). See also verses 7, 14, 16, 18, 21.

"And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them. I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and they shall increase as they have increased. And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again" (Zechariah 10:6, 8, 9). See the whole chapter.

"God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. If the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. How much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For 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. And 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: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the Father's sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. [See also verses 30-31.] God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:2, 12, 15, 23, 24, 25-29, 32-33).

"At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry. Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. There is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that 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 bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the city shall be built to the LORD from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner" (Jeremiah 31:1, 4, 10, 17, 31-33, 38). See the whole chapter.

"In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn" (Zechariah 12:6, 10). See the whole chapter.

"And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God" (Amos 9:14, 15).

"They shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them. Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid" (Jeremiah 30:9, 10). See to the end of the chapter.