Discourse 41 – The stubbornness of Israel in the past and at the present day.

Israel and the congregation. / Lecture by Jost Müller-Bohn 00,CS-CD1

Israel in the Lord’s parables.

Israel and the Sabbath.

The Catholic Church and celibacy.

The foundation of the state of Israel.

Israel in the wilderness.

(Texts in a black frame are quotations from visitors to this site or from other authors.)

(Israel and the congregation. / Jost Müller-Bohn, Lecture JMB,CS-CD1 07.31.30ff *)

Israel is mentioned as the first-born son in this parable (the parable of the lost son, Lk 15,11-32). (...) God is represented as the father of two sons of very different character. The elder son – Israel is meant – plainly lives in accordance with the Law. (...)

Jesus knew the heart of his people: he knew that it was proud, unyielding and altogether self-righteous. The elder son does nothing unjust in external terms. He is aspiring and very correct, but simply blind where the heart is concerned. We see this from his words: "I have never neglected a command of yours." He is a good manager, an ambitious eager beaver, a remorseless overseer to the servants – a proper workhorse, as one might say. His life has consisted of toils and burdens, and he reproaches his father for this, with the utmost bitterness: "For so many years I have been serving you." He is everything else he should be, but he just is not a son, nor is he a brother either. He places himself outside the family. He addresses his questions to one of his servants, instead of going at once to his father. He cannot feel any joy at the fact that his younger brother has been found again. He looks down on him, arrogantly and with contempt. He does not even call him brother, but says, "This son of yours, who has devoured his wealth with prostitutes, this ne’er-do-well, for him you give a feast." He is contrary and self-righteous. He does not want to enter the house. In short, for all his outward propriety he is just as lost as the other was in his sinful life. And moreover he persists in his lost condition, remaining a loveless and carping critic.

So Jesus tells us in this parable of a son who appeals to the Law, but who despises grace and love. Actually he should have known that the Law makes such strict claims that he who should violate it in just one article would at once be guilty of breaking the whole of the Law. The younger son has lived a lawless life in the first instance, he is undisciplined and wild. But he has repented, and has received the unlimited grace of his father. God as a rule lets all things come to maturity. The elder son gets angry at this, and is even filled with hatred. The anger of this son lets the cat out of the bag, reveals his inner attitude, and with that his true spiritual state. The law-abiding son hurls at his father, without dressing it up, everything that lurks in his heart: hatred, envy, self-righteousness, the refusal to be reconciled. He even goes so far as to blackmail his father, by forcing him, through the attitude he takes, to abandon the celebration and go out to him.

The younger son is a symbol of the congregation, which, coming from the heathen nations, finds its way back to God. Jesus explains to us that if the congregation in this way lives a life of repentance and grace, it can celebrate, sing and rejoice at God’s goodness and mercy. Perhaps that might be an occasion for the elder son to wake up, and get the better of his jealousy. 

* This lecture, along with much other highly interesting written and audio documentation (in German), can be obtained free of charge (apart from a fee to cover postage) on the "Christian Software CD-1" from:

Wolfgang Roth Wolfgang.Roth@web.de / https://mitglied.lycos.de/woroth0/

Israel in the Lord’s parables.

To give us an objective overview of the situation, let us now look at the parable of the lost son in the original:

The parable of the lost son.

Lk 15,11 And He said, "A man had two sons. 15,12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. 15,13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. 15,14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished.

15,15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 15,16 And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. 15,17 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 15,18 ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 15,19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.‘ 15,20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

15,21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 15,22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 15,23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 15,24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

15,25 Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 15,26 And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 15,27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 15,28 But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.15,29 But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; 15,30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’

15,31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 15,32 ‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’" Lk 15,11-32;

To make one thing clear from the start: the above exposition of this parable is quite outstanding, and in terms of what it says there is indeed nothing to criticize. The elder son stands for Israel, the younger son for the congregation. The fact that the Israelites were unwilling to accept the Son of God – Our Lord Jesus Christ – on his first appearance in this world as their Messiah has given the peoples of the heathen, who until then had no access to the God of Israel, the possibility of in their turn accepting the faith in the one and only God, the Almighty. This can also be clearly seen in the following parable.

The parable of the wedding feast.

Mt 22,1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 22,2 "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.

22,3 And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. 22,4 Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.‘ 22,5 But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 22,6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 22,7 But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.

22,8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 22,9 ‘Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’

22,10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. 22,11 But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 22,12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless.

22,13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’22,14 For many are called, but few are chosen." Mt 22, 1-14;

In this parable the Kingdom of Heaven – that is God – is compared with a king who prepares a wedding feast for his son. But the guests who have been invited (the people of Israel) were unwilling to come. And worse still, in the end they even killed the slaves (the prophets) whom the king had sent to invite them. In response the king ordered their city set on fire (as Titus did Jerusalem in the year 70 AD) and had those murderers put to death. Then the king sent out his slaves once more (preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ), who were now to invite all the people who were prepared to come (from among all nations).

Through its stubbornness, Israel has lost its position as the uniquely chosen people. If in earlier times to belong to one of the twelve tribes of Israel, the people of God, was the condition for being chosen, now the criteria have changed. No longer is the physical belonging to a people the significant thing: it is the inward and spiritual willingness to accept faith in this God (put on wedding clothes) – independently of race, skin color, origin or worldly position.

Thus far, then, the facts and the implications that are expressed in the first parable of the lost son. The character assessment of the elder of the two sons by the author cited above is absolutely correct:

"He is a good manager, an ambitious eager beaver, a remorseless overseer to the slaves – a proper workhorse, as one might say."

Nonetheless, there is probably not a single person who reads this biblical passage who is not able to feel a certain sympathy for the bitterness of this son. And in discussion too the question is repeatedly raised: "Where does this leave God’s justice?"

But the solution offered by the author quoted above, when he observes:

"In short, for all his outward propriety he is just as lost as the other was in his sinful life. And moreover he persists in his lost condition, remaining a loveless and carping critic"

is not – if we consider closely – a really satisfactory answer, either in relation to the elder son of this parable or in relation to Israel. It tells us something more, admittedly, about the character traits of the individual in question, and yet this assessment still leaves us on the surface of the story: we do not come to know the actual reason why the first-born son has acted in such a way. And so long as we do not understand this, we do not have the chance of learning anything from this parable for our own life and faith, nor can we judge how it is that Israel – from our point of view today – has displayed such incomprehensible behavior.

For this purpose we must enter a little more deeply into the analysis of this passage, and look for any indirect indications it gives us. And here, perhaps, at the end of the text quoted – in the verse Lk 15,31 – we may hit on what we are looking for. Here it is written: "Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours." This is the father speaking here, to the embittered first-born son. And he makes a statement in this sentence which is often passed over without any particular attention paid to it. For this is the point where the relationship between the father and his elder son is revealed – at least from the father’s point of view.

But the son, too, cannot have been ignorant over the years of his father’s attitude: "All that is mine is yours". In connection with the reproach made by the son to his father – "I have never neglected a command of yours" – we can see, then, that there cannot have been such a command: it cannot have been that the son was not to be allowed even a young goat to celebrate with his friends. The son would only have needed, indeed, to take a young goat for himself and invite his friends to a feast. Surely in view of what the father says here, in his own words, he would not have had anything against it.

Any argument that might seek to prove that the father’s statement is questionable or dishonest is contradicted by the fact that this parable is put forward by the Son of God as an instructive illustration, and as the father stands for God the Almighty in the parable, anything he says must be regarded as absolutely correct.

So the question suggests itself: why has this son, over all these years, not acted to take something of what, while it also belonged to his father, was still his own? One might now suppose that the father has been a tyrannical father, that he has made the son so insecure that the son is afraid to take anything for himself. But the whole context of the parable speaks against it – as likewise does the way in which the father welcomes his lost son, along with the fact that it is the father who later goes out to his elder son as he waits outside, nursing his anger, to invite him to come in to the feast. A dominating father surely does not behave in such a way. But then, what was the reason?

It is not hard to see now that the reason lies in the elder son himself. It was not fear that prevented him from enjoying what he possessed, but misplaced ambition. He knew that he could at any time have whatever he wanted. But in addition to the commands of his father – commands that, as he says himself, he had been given – he wanted to set up a further commandment. He wanted to be better than his father’s expectations of him. And for that reason he would even prefer to let his friends be in want, rather than preparing a feast for them.

Israel and the Sabbath.

And here we now come immediately to consider the attitude of the people of Israel and its leaders. They had the commandments of God, but we know from various passages in the Bible what they made of these. We can judge this most plainly from way in which Jesus and the scribes place a different valuation on the commandment to observe the Sabbath.

It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.

Jn 5,1 After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 5,2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. 5,3 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; 5,4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.

5,5 A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 5,6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?" 5,7 The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me." 5,8 Jesus said to him, "Get up, pick up your pallet and walk." 5,9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day.

5,10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet." 5,11 But he answered them, "He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’" 5,12 They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?" 5,13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.

5,14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you." 5,15 The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 5,16 For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. Jn 5, 1-16;

Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?

Lk 14,1 It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely. 14,2 And there in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy. 14,3 And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?" 14,4 But they kept silent. And He took hold of him and healed him, and sent him away. 14,5 And He said to them, "Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?" 14,6 And they could make no reply to this. Lk 14, 1- 6;

This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.

Jn 9,1 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 9,2 And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" 9,3 Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 9,4 We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 9,5 While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world." 9,6 When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, 9,7 and said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.

9,8 Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, "Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?" 9,9 Others were saying, "This is he," still others were saying, "No, but he is like him." He kept saying, "I am the one." 9,10 So they were saying to him, "How then were your eyes opened?" 9,11 He answered, "The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight." 9,12 They said to him, "Where is He?" He said, "I do not know."

9,13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. 9,14 Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 9,15 Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, "He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see." 9,16 Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath." But others were saying, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And there was a division among them. 9,17 So they said to the blind man again, "What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?" And he said, "He is a prophet."

9,18 The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, 9,19 and questioned them, saying, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?" 9,20 His parents answered them and said, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 9,21 but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." 9,22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. 9,23 For this reason his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."

9,24 So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner." 9,25 He then answered, "Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." 9,26 So they said to him, "What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?" 9,27 He answered them, I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?" 9,28 They reviled him and said, "You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 9,29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from."

9,30 The man answered and said to them, "Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. 9,31 We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. 9,32 Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 9,33 If this man were not from God, He could do nothing." 9,34 They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?" So they put him out.

9,35 Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" 9,36 He answered, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?" 9,37 Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you." 9,38 And he said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped Him. 9,39 And Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." 9,40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, "We are not blind too, are we" 9,41 Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains." Jn 9, 1-41;

The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

Mk 2,23 And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. 2,24 The Pharisees were saying to Him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" 2,25 And He said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; 2,26 how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?" 2,27 Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 2,28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Mk 2,23-28;

The Pharisees went out and began conspiring against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

Mk 3,1 He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. 3,2 They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3,3 He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward" 3,4 And He said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent. 3,5 After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 3,6 The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. Mk 3, 1- 6;

In these accounts it can be seen that Israel has supplemented the commandment to observe the Sabbath, given to them by God through Moses, with additional commandments of their own. They wanted to be better than their God. When the commandment directs "You shall not do any work on the Sabbath," meaning by this quite simply no kind of gainful employment with cheat and overcharge of the poor (Amos 8,4-6), as this would detract from the holiness of this day, the Jews then went one better and made the commandment: "On the Sabbath you shall do nothing at all."

On the Sabbath you shall not do any work.

2Mo 20,9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 20,10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. Ex 20, 9-10;

If by "work" any kind of activity at all had been meant, then on this day the Israelites would have been unable to stir hand or foot. But that was not the case. And this was perfectly obvious and unmistakable. And yet the scribes of Israel wanted to be better than that.

That this attitude has persisted into the present day is proved by the story of a Jewish family who specially engaged an extra maid for the Sabbath to do the "work" of opening doors, switching on lights, picking up the telephone etc., while other kinds of work, like cleaning, cooking and washing, were managed by the regular household staff.

The Catholic Church and celibacy.

But it is not just Israel that has altered the commandments of God to the disadvantage of believers. We find this kind of distortion in the Catholic Church as well. There is not a single passage in the Bible, for instance, which can be taken to require that priests should be celibate. On the contrary, in his first epistle to Timothy Paul warns us that liars will come who will forbid marriage.

The hypocrisy of liars who forbid marriage.

1Tim 4,1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 4,2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 4,3 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4,4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 1Tim 4, 1- 4;

As is well known, woman is for man – except in certain abnormal instances – an integral component of his feeling life, and the basis for the family as God intends it. To put obstacles in the way of this borders on perversion, and it is astonishing that this practice could have been ordained by the Catholic Church for centuries without contradiction. What results from this can be seen by us now at the present time - but not only at the present time! - when across the world (in America and Austria first of all, but also in the countries of Eastern Europe) Catholic religious are charged in court with homosexuality and the crime of sexual child abuse, and the Catholic Church – at least in the United States – will have to pay out billions of dollars (out of the collection plate?) in damages.

The foundation of the state of Israel.

But to come back to Israel, this peculiar tendency of the Israelites willfully to make additions to the definite utterances of their holy scriptures, the Old Testament, can be seen again in our own time. In many of the prophetic books of the Old Testament there are indications of a time when the people of Israel will be gathered together and will return to their own land. Here there are various conditions mentioned, but also certain clearly recognizable consequences.

Here, for example, are some of the features of the gathering together of the people of Israel and their return to their own country, as promised by God:


o  They will search for the Lord with all their heart. (Jer 29,13-14)

o  They will come weeping and seek their God. (Jer 50,4-5)


o  The Lord will give them a heart that they may know him and turn to him again. (Jer 24,6-7)

o  They are to be clean from all their uncleanness. God will pour out his Spirit on them. (Eze 36,24-28)

Now one can say many things about the people of Israel today, but surely not that they have sought their God weeping. Let alone that it looks as if they have been cleansed of all their uncleanness. And least of all that the Spirit of God has been poured out on them.

The Bible, consequently, speaks of this return only after the coming of the Messiah (Isa 49, 5-6) – an interpretation also shared, incidentally, by the few Orthodox Jews still true to their faith, and naturally by the small body of messianic Jews, those Jews, that is to say, who believe in Christ (of whom there are about 5.000 in Israel, 6.000 in Germany and 120.000 all over the world). This means, then, for us Christians: only after the Second Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

(See also Chapter 09: "The return home of the redeemed.")

But Theodor Herzl’s Zionists concluded, in the year 1948, that this time was come. At that time not a single one of these biblical conditions had been fulfilled, not to speak – after the Israelites had expelled a great many of the Palestinians from their land of Palestine and isolated the rest in camps in their own country – of any of the promised consequences making themselves felt. And because of the simple fact that this was not the gathering together of the people promised by God, and because they were unwilling to wait for the appointed time that God had chosen, Israel today holds a foreign country under occupation, a country that belongs to the Palestinians, and for half a century and more thousands of people have had to die on both sides.

The present-day inhabitants and rulers of Israel are for the most part godless people, and in no way different from other nations. We should not allow ourselves to be taken in by their wearing the kippa (yarmulka), the traditional Jewish skullcap. The true people of God who are of Israel – consisting of Orthodox Jews who remain true to their faith – is still to be found in the Diaspora, scattered throughout the world. And that by their own choice, because they have taken to heart the promises of God which state that Israel will only be assembled and brought back to its own land when their Messiah comes – the Messiah who is Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is he who, at the time of his Second Coming, will bring back Israel to its land – not the likes of Theodor Herzl's Zionists with the founding of the state of Israel in the year 1948.

The LORD will assemble Jacob and go before them at their head.

Mi 2,12 "I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel. I will put them together like sheep in the fold; Like a flock in the midst of its pasture They will be noisy with men. 2,13 "The breaker goes up before them; They break out, pass through the gate and go out by it. So their king goes on before them, And the LORD at their head." Mi 2,12-13;

(See also Discourse 46: "Statement by Chief Rabbi M. A. Friedman, Vienna (Austria).")

Israel in the wilderness.

The Old Testament tells us of a very similar event at the very beginning of the people of Israel. In Exodus (2nd book of Moses) chapter 31 and 32 we are told how Moses went to Mount Sinai to make an eternal covenant between God and Israel, and also to receive the tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments. In the meantime Aaron, the brother of Moses, waited with the whole people of Israel at the foot of the mountain. After he delayed to return, the Israelites persuaded Aaron to make them idols out of gold.

The LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people."

Ex 32,1 Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, "Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."

32,2 Aaron said to them, "Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." 32,3 Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 32,4 He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt."

32,5 Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD." 32,6 So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

32,7 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, "Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 32,8 They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’" 32,9 The LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. 32,10 Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation."

32,11 Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, "O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 32,12 Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. 32,13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’" 32,14 So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.

32,15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. 32,16 The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets. 32,17 Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, "There is a sound of war in the camp."

32,18 But he said, "It is not the sound of the cry of triumph, Nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat; But the sound of singing I hear." 32,19 It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. 32,20 He took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it. 32,21 Then Moses said to Aaron, "What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?"

32,22 Aaron said, "Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil. 32,23 For they said to me, ‘Make a god for us who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’

32,24 I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf." 32,25 Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control – for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies – 32,26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, "Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!" And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him.

32,27 He said to them, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’" 32,28 So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 32,29 Then Moses said, "Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD – for every man has been against his son and against his brother – in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today." Ex 32, 1-29;

As the passage shows, even in those days the Israelites could not wait for the time that God had established, when he would bless them and make his covenant with them. The consequence was the immediate death of three thousand of their brothers, and a wandering in the wilderness that lasted forty years, until in the wilderness the last of that generation had died who had taken part in this blasphemous deed. Only after that were they permitted to leave the wilderness and enter the Promised Land.

And so, since 1948, both phenomena have been repeated: both the inadequacy and obstinacy of Israel, and the resulting punishment at God’s hands. And as they proved their unbelief at that time in the desert in falling away from their God and turning to a self-made idol - the molten calf - they contented in 1948 with the small piece of land in Palestine and renounced the land which had been promised to them by their God and which would extend from Nil to Euphrates (Gen 15,18).

This people could already, two thousand years ago at the first coming of its Messiah, have become a blessing to the world and the "chief of nations" (Jer 31,7). Because of their obstinacy they were then condemned to a Diaspora lasting thousands of years, and the world – instead of reaching a kingdom of peace and justice – has been forced into a chaos of war, hatred and envy.

But the time is coming when Israel will turn to its God again, and he will wipe all tears from their eyes, and they shall be his people, and he shall be their God.

Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.

Isa 25,8 He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken.

25,9 And it will be said in that day, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation." Isa 25,8-9;

Before that, though, according to the Scriptures, Israel will be exposed to further testing ordeals.

(See also Chapter 02: "The conquest and the dispersion of Jerusalem.")