The numerous prophecies recorded in the Scriptures of the ultimate restoration of the house of Israel have until recently aroused but little general interest, for the simple reason that Israel as a nation, or as a distinct race, has for twenty centuries or more completely lost sight of itself. After the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel had spent itself, the Israelites, unlike the people of the southern kingdom of Judah, did not return to their own land, but scattered themselves among other countries and drifted out of historical knowledge or record. Yet according to the promise made to Jacob, Israel was to become "a nation and a company of nations;" and after the days of Gentile dominion should be accomplished, the house of Israel was to be reunited in one kingdom with the house of Judah.
The completeness of Israel's disappearance from human knowledge may be gathered from the following excerpt from the "Expositor's Bible," written in comment on Jeremiah's prophecy of the restoration of Israel and Judah in one kingdom: "The reunion of long divided Israel is for the most part a misnomer . . . Even now, when the leaven of the kingdom has been working in the lump of humanity for nearly two thousand years, any suggestion that these chapters are realized in modern Christianity would seem cruel irony . . . There was no return of the ten tribes that in any way corresponded to the terms of this prophecy. Our growing acquaintance with the races of the world seems likely to exclude even the possibility of any such restoration of Ephraim."
Within the last half century, however, a marked and increasing interest in this subject has arisen among Anglo-Saxon peoples, owing apparently to our close approximation in point of time to the period of prophetic fulfillment. Writers on the prophecies are agreed that the "seven times" which were to pass over Nebuchadnezzar are intended to indicate the duration of Gentile dominion, and seven times in prophetic chronology equal 2520 years. There is no definite date assigned from which to reckon this time, beyond the fact that Nebuchadnezzar was the head of the image which symbolized the period of Gentile power; but one authority states that its latest possible end will be between the years 1919 and 1924. "Jerusalem," said Jesus, "shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled," and in the light of recent events in Palestine, his words have a special significance.
The Christian Scientist seriously accepts the prophecies of Scripture, and they mean more to him than to others, because his knowledge of metaphysics reveals their inner meaning, and the logical necessity of their orderly fulfillment "in the dispensation of the fulness of times," that is, when human consciousness is ready for it. We are of course primarily concerned with spiritual things, but we are reminded by our Leader, on page 133 of Miscellany, that "the spiritual bespeaks our temporal history." The letter and the spirit bear witness together. Whatever may be the outward nature or form of prophetic fulfillment, it will be brought about, and can only be brought about as the human rises toward the apprehension of the divine, as has always been the case.
The prophet Amos wrote concerning Israel in the dispersion: "For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth." Thus throughout their banishment into obscurity, their perpetuity and integrity were to be maintained, until they emerged from that obscurity to take their place in the divine plan of human redemption; but this reappearance, we are led to believe, will be under a "new name," not only as a nation but in its form of religion.
Now the Israelites, it should be remembered, were not set apart from the rest of mankind to be the chosen people of God because they were of themselves superior to other mortals, but because of what they possessed of the truth about God and man. Abraham's discernment that God is Spirit so transformed his nature that he was given a new name; and his spiritual experience marked the beginning of Israel as a nation and as the avenue through which the redemptive truth was to become known to mankind. The patriarch's perception of spiritual reality set aside material law in the birth of his son Isaac; therefore it was said that his seed, or the offspring of his enlightened sense of being, were to be "called" or made known through Isaac, and not through the sons born after the beliefs of material sense and its asserted law.
Paul points out the metaphysical significance of Isaac's birth, and draws the line sharply between the material and the spiritual, the former as that "which gendereth to bondage," and the latter as that which "is free," and which therefore expresses man's true origin. The apostle's declaration, "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it 'is now," has been verified in all subsequent history, and not more so than to-day. It can also be readily seen that "the son of the freewoman" would bequeath to his descendants a characteristic and innate love of liberty, not merely as human beings, but as heirs of the promise made to their fathers, and which blossomed to its fullness in the teachings of him who said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," and "Before Abraham was, I am."
In the account of Jacob's struggle at Peniel we find the first mention of the name Israel, which was given to him because he had prevailed over the sense of evil in himself, and had "seen God face to face." The literal meaning of the word is "ruling with God." The word Israelite has, therefore, a higher meaning than the word Hebrew, as may be inferred from Jesus' salutation to Nathanael, "Behold an Israelite indeed." The spiritual origin and development of Israel, and its subsequent high destiny among the nations of the earth, as repeatedly set forth in the Hebrew Scriptures, explains the absolute certainty of the prophets' vision of its ultimate restoration; for although error might temporarily take Israel into captivity and darkness, the nation through whose consciousness came the revelation of the spiritual creation of man as the image and likeness of God, could not be held forever captive to material sense.
The glimpses of the spiritual idea which came to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which moulded and leavened and preserved the nation's hopes and ideals, which led human thought to "where the young child lay," and brought out the full revelation of Truth in Christian Science, could not fail to "restore again the kingdom to Israel," although Jesus was careful to say that his real kingdom was "not of this world."
From their long bondage in Egypt the Israelites were led out, with signs and wonders, through Moses' understanding of God as the one I am, and by this understanding they were sustained in the wilderness and brought into the promised land. Passing over their experiences in subduing the inhabitants of Canaan, we find them pleading with Samuel for a monarchical government like the nations around them. This, Samuel was told, was not a rejection of him, but of God as their ruler and king. The Israelites' gradual adoption of the idolatrous beliefs as well as the mode of government of other nations resulted in the loss of divine protection, and in their eventual overthrow and captivity. In the meantime they had become divided into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. After their seventy years of captivity in Babylon the Jews were permitted to return to their own land, where they remained until, after their rejection of the Messiah and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, they were, in fulfillment of prophecy, dispersed among all nations, yet preserving their racial identity. And thus conditions have remained,—the Jews a scattered and despised people, the Israelites lost to sight and unknown nationally, except under "another name."
Christian Scientists in particular should be interested in this subject, not because the Israelites, as many believe, are to-day known as Anglo-Saxons, and speak the language in which Christian Science found utterance, but because of the part which Christian Science fills in this epochal event, that is to say in the restoration. The Historical Sketch, on page 17 of the Manual of The Mother Church, states that "Christian Science, as taught and demonstrated by our Master, casts out error, heals the sick, and restores the lost Israel." This of course means primarily in the spiritual sense, but no more so than in respect to the healing of sickness. The restoration of Israel spiritually could no more be separated, in its effect, from a restored nationality, than could the spiritual healing of the sick be separated from its outward expression in a restored health of body.
Now we know it was something other than the Assyrians that took Israel captive; for had the Israelites remained faithful to what they knew of God, they would have prevailed over their enemies. It was their idolatry which first made them mental captives, and brought upon them the doom pronounced by Moses, which we find in the twenty-sixth chapter of Leviticus. Idolatry, in the last analysis, is not the burning of incense to the sun or before an image, or the performance of any pagan rite; it is the belief in intelligent matter, the belief that there is more than the one Mind. It is a glorification of the so-called carnal mind, the giving of power and dominion to something besides good. That, therefore, which is to bring Israel back from its idolatrous captivity and out of its obscurity, is not the conquest of other nations, but the conquest of evil in themselves, the recognition and acknowledgment of the supremacy of Spirit.
God's covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which was later confirmed with Moses and David, may be epitomized in the word obedience. This covenant in its application to the Israelites, as to all mortals, was enunciated in the First Commandment, and while they remained obedient thereto they were to be fruitful and blessed, and victorious over their enemies. This covenant relationship, about which so much is said in the Scriptures, was not the bestowal or withdrawal of favor from a personal Jehovah; it was plainly the entirely mental condition of obedience or disobedience to Principle, together with its logical effect. This being so, mortals' release from captivity to error must come through mental means, that is, through mental transformation. The restoration of lost Israel is the restoring of the spiritual sense of being, as perceived by the Hebrew patriarchs and prophets, and as exemplified in the life of Christ Jesus. If we have reached the closing period of the times of the Gentiles, which prefigures the ascendancy in human consciousness of the carnal mind, or incarnate error, the means by which man's spiritual freedom from error is to be worked out must somewhere be in evidence; and this evidence, beyond reasonable question, exists to-day in Christian Science and the demonstration of its teachings.
The restoration of Israel, therefore, means the restoration of spiritual dominion, the consciousness of "ruling with God," and this condition can be brought about only through the denial and overcoming of the claims of material sense. This attitude toward materiality, as an essential of Christian life and practice, is nowhere taught outside of Christian Science; it is obvious, therefore, that nothing else offers the means for the fulfillment of this prophecy. Israel lost sight of its own identity as a result of losing sight of the truth about God, the recognition of which had made Israel as a nation what it was, and which alone differentiated it radically from other races; and what but the regaining or recovering of this truth could restore Israel's former position and prestige?
The prophets foresaw that when the day of error should run its full course, as expressed by the phrase "seven times," the truth would again appear, in its final dispensation, before which error would yield up its wrongful dominion. This self-destruction of error was to be accompanied by a great human upheaval, characterized in the Scriptures as the "great tribulation" and the "time of Jacob's trouble," after which the prophecies concerning Israel and Judah were to be fulfilled. It is generally conceded that humanity is now passing through this terrible refining experience; therefore, men may with confidence look for the presence of Christ among them. The spiritual idea, the divine reality of things, has never been absent except to the blindness and darkness of mortal belief; for finite human belief, losing sight of the Christ in personality, saw it as that which must come and go and reappear. Christian Scientists know that the Christ, or Truth, has again become known to human consciousness in Christian Science, as discovered by Mrs. Eddy, and stated by her in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." They should also know that the power of Truth, according to inspired prophecy, will "restore again the kingdom to Israel," that is, bring about the government of Principle in human affairs.
The great conflict now taking place is coming more and more to be recognized, by the nations participating in it on the side of human freedom, as a conflict for the final recognition of Principle as the supreme dictator of human conduct, under whose government alone men may live in safety and be in harmony with one another. Even in the darkness of these awful days one can begin to see the coming fulfillment of Mrs. Eddy's statement (Science and Health, p. 565), "Christ, God's idea, will eventually rule all nations and peoples—imperatively, absolutely, finally—with divine Science."
But why, it might be asked, is it necessary for Israel to be brought out of its age-long obscurity and to be reunited nationally with the house of Judah? Why could not things continue indefinitely as they have been, with Israel but a memory, or as an example and warning to wrongdoers? Because this would mean the triumph of the error which led them captive. This question must be understood metaphysically. Nations, like individuals, express types of thought, and it is undoubtedly from this standpoint they are frequently treated by Biblical writers. Israel, as we have seen, stood highest among the nations because it expressed the highest sense of good. Continued adherence to the spiritual truths given to this nation would naturally have resulted in the destruction of error, hence the persistent effort of the carnal mind to seduce Israel by the appeal to sensuality; but though error apparently succeeded, and though it should run the full circle of its false claims, it is only to meet the doom which was pronounced upon it from the very beginning.
Naaman the Syrian proclaimed the position of Israel when after his healing by Elisha he said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel;" and by David when he said, "Who is so great a God as our God?" The phrase, "The God of Israel," is frequently met with as synonymous with the one infinite Supreme Being, but we find no other nation on earth named in the same sense. No one thinks of referring to Deity as the God of Egypt, or Rome, or Russia, or America. Since God is still thought of and loved as the God of Israel, can we think of Israel as an extinct race, as never again to be a people known and acknowledged among the nations? This was the argument repeated to Jeremiah: "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;" but he at once rebuked the suggestion with a "Thus saith the Lord," ending with this assurance, "I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them."
Now Israel, brought back from its long captivity and banishment, and spiritually transformed in the fiery process of error's destruction, is destined to emerge upon a higher plane, not only as a nation, but with a higher consciousness and understanding of Deity. Names meant much to the early Hebrews, and particularly when these names were changed. Writing of Israel restored, Isaiah says, "Thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name." And in Revelation we read, "I will write upon him my new name." Thus we have a new name for both Israel and Israel's God, which brings to mind the prophecy that there shall be "new heavens and a new earth," and the apostle's injunction to "put on the new man." All this definitely indicates that the old order of things is to pass away, and with this passing, which is referred to in Scripture as the end of the times of the Gentiles, the end of matter's domination, there is to come a new sense of all things, and that, it is needless to say, will be the spiritual or divine sense.
Christian Science undoubtedly reveals God's new name as divine Principle, and His chosen people on earth —that is, those who understand Him —will be known as Christian Scientists, not as the name of a sector of a class, but as designating those who have a demonstrable knowledge of the Christ, the spiritual idea which is to free mankind, not only from sin and disease but from the sense of a mortal and sinful ancestry. These are not dogmatic predictions; they stand out clearly as the inevitable outcome of the dawn of Truth on human consciousness, and are even now being worked out in the crucible of mankind's higher destiny. One can look beneath the surface of the world's great disturbance and see that although evil is showing itself in all its hideousness because its time is short, it is fast losing its hold upon humanity. It should not be forgotten that the key to the prophecies concerning the latter days is God's final revelation of Himself in Christian Science.
The bringing to light of Israel's identity as a nation would of itself be of little real importance unless Israel had something beyond other nations wherewith to bless the world. The long promised restoration is plainly not for the purpose of exalting one nation above another, but of redeeming humanity. As the prophets evidently foresaw it, the restoration of Israel meant nothing less than the final establishment of Christ's kingdom; not the return of a personal Messiah, but the human perception and demonstration of Truth. Nothing less than this could bring to pass the Scripture, "And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory;" and that other prophecy of Isaiah, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it." As this is accomplished all mankind will become Israelites, under the new name of Christian Scientists. It will be remembered that the new name spoken of in Revelation would be known, or acknowledged, only by those receiving it.
Those who look for a personal and spectacular appearing of Christ fail to appreciate the mental nature of human captivity to error, and that deliverance will be the coming of the true idea to human consciousness. Elijah perceived this when he discovered that not the earthquake, the wind, or the fire, but the "still small voice" of spiritual intuition announced the divine presence. The captivity of Israel did not occur suddenly, but resulted from their gradual departure from the spiritual ideals of the founders of their nation, while the outward captivity, namely, their deportation to a foreign country, extended over a period of many years. So the return of Israel need not be looked for as the event of a day, but as the gradual awakening in human consciousness to know and obey the "God of our fathers," known of old. There is every reason to feel assured that this returning process is already taking place, and to a greater extent than is generally recognized.
Those who are interested in tracing the beginning and development of the spiritual idea in human consciousness, as expressed in the history of the Hebrew people, and in subsequent human events, will find a wealth of meaning in the following passage from Science and Health (p. 271), which is inscribed upon the wall of The Mother Church: "Christ's Christianity is the chain of scientific being reappearing in all ages, maintaining its obvious correspondence with the Scriptures and uniting all periods in the design of God."
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