The Big If ...
If My People which are called by My Name

By Harold Stough
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"If My people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My Face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

This promise of Our Lord means much - but it is conditional. So: taking it word by word:

If if they do - if My People.

Next word - My: My people ... thou art Mine, "I have bought thee"; "I have redeemed thee with an everlasting love".

They are My people - God says you are His people. They are called by His Name, and the name of course is Isra-El, El being the name of God.

"Shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My Face, and turn from their wicked ways": that is - follow up faith with action, turn from wicked ways.

"Then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

That's conditional but definite. That turning means really humbling oneself` before Him, praying and seeking His Face.

That quotation from 2 Chronicles 7: 14 is the most precious promise for this present time.

But there's also Ezekiel 36: 37: "Thus saith The Lord God: I will yet for this be inquired of by the House of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock."

That's the Holy Flock, the flock of Jerusalem, and her solemn feasts.

This is highly relevant for times of crisis. During the war years, we had what we call National Days of Prayer. There were several of these officially led, with The Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons gathered at St Margaret's, Westminster.

This emphasises the national aspect of the Scriptures. But today's leaders take away the sovereignty of God and replace it with man's sovereignty. We have practically enthroned the god Demos - democracy - as if that was everything. In fact, democracy is nothing, it is only the representation of the thoughts of the people at the moment and fluctuates according to perceived rational interests and prejudices.

Theocracy, however, is the recognition that God rules and it is the recognition of the sovereignty of God that makes Calvinism different.

This perspective is denied in much present-day evangelism. Appeals to "raise your hand and come forward" make the people sovereign. But God said: "Ye are My People" and "You are not your own."

When it is said "He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world (Effesians 1: 4), no single generation can confirm or deny it. God says: "You haven't chosen Me, I have chosen you" (John 15: 16).

He is not a God we can possess, pack up and throw down whenever we feel like it. God is sovereign and we are subject to the sovereign God.

So we have this If My People.

We are his because He bought us, redeemed us, and we are called by his Name. We bear the name of Isra-El.

You cannot spiritualise that away by saying all Christians are called by His name. This is Old Testament, The Chronicles.

The Second Person of the Trinity is eternal, but the Second Person had not been introduced in history as far back as this passage (1004 BC). The 'El' of God is in the name used here. As in Ezekiel 36: "I will yet for this be inquired of by the House of Israel". The House of Israel therefore becomes co-incident with My people.

There is this great responsibility that we must seek God and ask Him to do for us that which we cannot do for ourselves, as Israel.

Israel is not a term that is co-incident with The Jews. The Jews are a minute section of but one of the Tribes in Palestine, the tribe of Judah. In history, Judah had three sons who had issue - Zarah and Phares and one who very early left the land and isn't in the genealogies. We believe he went to Ireland. Zarah also left early. Phares is the one that the Bible story takes up. The 'Jew' therefore is a third of the descent of Judah.

That goes back to about 1500 BC. There weren't any 'Jews' up to that time. Indeed, not until about 600/500 BC when a section went back to rebuild Jerusalem. So, not only a third, but only a small fraction of that third is involved in 'the Jews'

The returned remnant were living in Moab and the east side and in the south until it was safe for them under Nebuchadnezzar to go back and rebuild Jerusalem. So the 'Jew' is descended from that small section - about 49,000.

They soon became proselytes, largely of Moab and Ammon and Edom. Edomites were there in large numbers. So true Judah is almost three times the number of 'Jews' in Palestine - some 75% of Judah was involved in the captivity and the 'Jewish' people were only a small section going back under Ezra and Nehemiah.

Thus My people - called Isra-El - cannot be termed this remnant. By substituting themselves for all Israel, succeeding 'Jews' try to take all Israel's promises and blessings. This can't be right - especially when it is later proved that most of these 'Jews' are not really true Judah.

This promise "If My people who are called by My Name" is to no one but all Israel".

Theologians, basing themselves on the teachings of Augustine, are apt to assign all those blessings of Israel to The Church. They glibly make the Church the new Israel and conveniently discard the old Israel. They offer false interpretations to reconcile Old Testament history with New Testament experience of a new world order.

There is no difficulty - the Church by its foundation is Israelitish in origin and universal in its application. That's why our mission is indeed to go into all the world.

Theologians can easily co-opt the blessings of Israel to the interests of the Church, but the curses are not so easily transferred. Here they are left to 'the Jews'.

In reality, what we see is continuing Israel and a church founded upon The Rock, The Stone Kingdom. The Church is not the Stone Kingdom itself. This exists separately - and will exist throughout history, according to the promises of God who said as long as the sun, moon and stars endure, Israel will be a nation before Him forever.

The early Church was located in the Asia Minor region where all were Israelitish communities. There isn't a single epistle of Paul to those Israelitish communities without a distinct reference to Israel. They would not have understood such allusions unless they were Israel - not 'gentiles'.

Theologians are prone to interpret the word gentiles as being people other than Israel. The word gentiles isn't in The Bible but they take the word nations, translate it as gentiles then use it for those 'other than Israel'.

In truth, Paul was sent far hence unto the gentiles, obviously in context the nations to be known as Spain and probably Britain. He went fulfilling the command 'go not into the way of the other nations but go ye rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel'. And 'as you go, preach, saying The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.'

There is a distinction between Israel and heathen. When the word heathen is translated as gentiles, nonsense ensues.

That's what results from failing to see continuing Israel in the New Testament. God said they would be "a nation before Me for ever, as long as the sun, moon and stars continue." It develops into a company or commonwealth of nations, or fullness of nations. And that is exactly what Israel has done. Having reached the Isles North and West of Palestine, they spread abroad to found Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America and so on.

This was fulfilment of the Abrahamic Covenant. "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 22:18).

Thus we plainly see Israel as the national body; the Church as the universal body, founded upon The Rock but not The Rock itself. The Stone Kingdom grants the body of believers protection through its laws and the Church is expected to use that protection to preach eternal doctrines to the Nation. And so, on to the nations of its commonwealth.

All great missionary endeavours are undertaken by modern Israel people because they were chosen - called - to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth... the families of the earth. They had 'the one seed , Christ ' as Galatians puts it. The foundation of Christianity was the Isra-El. Our destiny was to proclaim The Gospel and be a blessing to all. Scripture says this must be "not as of seed as of many, but seed as of one' - the Christ who visited and redeemed His people.

The ultimate realisation of redemption is when He comes again. He said "Your redemption draweth nigh."

How shall we, then, prepare?

There was a Day of Prayer at the end of World War I. It specifically had God inquired of by the House of Israel.

We find the fulfillment of the Times of the Gentiles to which Our Lord referred. Jerusalem was trodden down by the gentiles no more. One of the lasting results of World War I was the deliverance of Jerusalem from the Turks.

In the last quarter of the last century, a French scholar of The Historicist school predicted that the times of the gentiles would have run their course in 1918. And in the last decade of the last century, Dr and Mrs Grattan Guinness (students of his) published two books on the same basis The Approaching End Of The Age and Light For The Last Days.

I knew personally people who were looking forward to 1914-18 as this fulfillment. They got all the way to Decermber 1917 before Jerusalem was delivered under General Allenby.

I was only five years old and I wasn't conscious of the fact of fulfillment of prophecy at that time but some leading theologians signed a manifesto saying "this should be as a trumpet blast to all of Christendom."

When Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem in 604 BC, he assigned a ruler called Zedekiah, who proved unreliable in the end. He made a covenant with Egypt. They were going to overthrow the Assyrian power. Nebuchadnezzar heard about this and took the city in 585 BC, rendering it fully subjugated. That was the final date of conquest.

Though the curse was: "Your house is left unto you desolate" yet the blessing came in restoration - just as He'd said, in "I will yet be inquired of by the House of Israel to do it for them."

Not for nothing do we hold the sacred trust of that name - Isra-El - ruling with God.

Orange Street Congregational Church