“Thus saith the LORD against all mine evil neighbours, that touch the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit; Behold, I will pluck them out of their land, and pluck out the house of Judah from among them. And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out I will return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land. And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people.”
One of the great wonders of God’s personality is His love for mankind. This is seen in the death of Jesus Christ, Who died in the place of mankind, satisfying God’s justice by enduring His wrath against sin. It is seen at its brightest against the black rebellion of mankind against Him. God is good, righteous, kind, loving, merciful, forgiving, gracious, and so much more. He has written His law in the hearts of mankind. But they turn away from it, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Romans 1:32)
The verses above discuss two groups, Israel, and the rest of the world. At the start, the Lord speaks of the inheritance that He has caused His people, Israel, to inherit, and those who had touched it. God calls those who have touched the inheritance of Israel evil neighbors. There is no doubt that Israel was in need of judgment for their rebellion against God. That is why they were among their evil neighbors. As noted above, God had written His law in Israel’s hearts, and they rebelled against Him. So, He used their neighbors to bring His judgment. But those that the Lord used overdid what the Lord intended. This is why He calls them evil neighbors. Their heavy handedness against Israel was not in keeping with God’s ways.
By way of judgment upon them, God promised the evil neighbors that He would pluck them out of their land. At the same time, God promised that He would pluck Israel out from among the evil neighbors. Israel was and is God’s chosen people for His purposes, the most important of which was the birth of Jesus from that race. In language similar to Jeremiah, Zechariah 2:7,8 says, “Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”
This did not mean, though, that He had no thought or care for the rest of the nations of the world. Galatians 3:8 and 14 state, “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. …That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Paul told the Galatians that God had the Gentiles, the heathen, in His plan all along, and His pronouncement to Abraham showed that.
Perhaps the most astounding thought in the verses above comes next, “And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out I will return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.” The rest of the passage above reveals that this was said about the evil neighbors from which the Lord had plucked Israel. He promised to have compassion on them! He judged them, plucked them out of their land, because of how they treated Israel. But then He spoke of having compassion on them. God is good and gracious and merciful and compassionate and forgiving.
But this was not an offer by the Lord made wholesale to all of the people of the nations. In the verses above He said, “And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people.” The requirement for the blessing that He promised was that they turn to Him. One thing that the evil neighbors did was to teach Israel idolatry. God stated that as the nations had taught Israel to swear by Baal, so the nations must learn to swear by the Lord’s name. Turning to Him would bring the Lord’s blessing. In fact, turning to God is a blessing to every nation, as Psalm 33:12 puts it, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.”
While Israel is indeed God’s chosen people, God’s plans involve all of mankind, for whom the offer of salvation stands open. But, as noted, this is not a general offer to every human, only to those who turn to Him. Without accepting the stupendous gift of salvation that God offers, individuals stand under His wrath against their sin. But God’s love for mankind leaves open the possibility of being reconciled to Him, and forgiven for our sin. How gracious, kind, loving, merciful, and loving He is!
Wonderful love that rescued me,
Sunk deep in sin,
Guilty and vile as I could be—
No hope within;
When every ray of light had fled,
O glorious day!
Raising my soul from out the dead,
Love found a way.
Love found a way, to redeem my soul,
Love found a way, that could make me whole.
Love sent my Lord to the cross of shame,
Love found a way, O praise His holy name!
Love brought my Savior here to die
For such a sinful wretch as I,
How can it be?
Love bridged the gulf ’twixt me and Heav’n,
Taught me to pray,
I am redeemed, set free, forgiv’n,
Love found a way.
Love opened wide the gates of light
To Heav’n’s domain,
Where in eternal power and might
Jesus shall reign.
Love lifted me from depths of woe
To endless day,
There was no help in earth below;
Love found a way.
Refrain (Avis M. Christiansen)