Israel in God’s Economy (3) – God’s Way of Dealing with Israel and the Nations and Its Issue


The book of Isaiah contains a “divine philosophy”—God chastises in love His beloved Israel who turned away from Him, He exercises His righteous judgment upon the nations who desolated Israel, and Christ is ushered in as the Savior of His people and the ruler of the earth (Life-study of Isaiah, 111). Isaiah is prophetic in two senses. First, it was fulfilled historically in the ancient nation of Israel. Second, it is being fulfilled in these last days as the Lord’s return approaches.

God’s Chastisement of Israel

In Isaiah 54:5 Jehovah reminds His people, Israel, that He is their Husband. The giving of the law upon Mount Sinai was a betrothing covenant (Jer. 2:2; 31:32; Ezek. 16:8, cf. 2 Cor. 11:2; Exo. 20:6, footnote 2). Israel, however, did not live according to Gods’ law and broke the eternal covenant. She became an unfaithful wife running after other gods and turning to the customs of the nations (Isa. 24:5, 16b; Jer. 11:10; Hos. 3:1; Isa. 2:6). Because of her apostasy, Jehovah chastised Israel, not to punish her but to restore her in love to her rightful position and loving relationship with Him (Isa. 54:6-7). As part of Jehovah’s chastisement of Israel, Isaiah said that Jehovah was “taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah every kind of support – all the support of bread and all the support of water” (3:1). Isaiah then enumerated various categories of rulers among the people (vv. 2-3). Concerning this Witness Lee commented:

It is significant that Isaiah links the ruler with the food supply. To be a ruler, you must feed the people. If you do not feed them, they will rebel. In the church, if there is no feeding, there is no ruling; and no ruling results in no food. Ruling and feeding go together as a pair. Ruling produces feeding, and feeding issues in ruling. If a church is well nourished, there surely must be proper ruling in that church. But when there is fighting in the church, this indicates that there is a shortage of food and of ruling. (Life-study of Isaiah, 16)

Jehovah’s chastisement extended to the exile of Israel from the promised land, fulfilled through the various captivities as well as the dispersion of the Jews in A.D. 70 (Isa. 5:13-17; Luke 12:24). Yet, even while Israel was held in captivity and in dispersion and the promised land was occupied by the nations, God still preserved the land as a habitation for His people. We see this principle in Jeremiah 32. When Jeremiah questioned why Jehovah had commanded him to purchase a particular field in the land given to Israel (vv. 6-8), Jehovah gave him three reasons. First, Jerusalem had been delivered to the Chaldeans because of Israel’s evils (vv. 28-36). Second, while Jehovah had driven Israel from the Holy Land, He promised that He would not abandon Israel but gather her again to dwell in safety there (v. 37). Third, Jehovah declared that He would make an eternal covenant to never again turn away from Israel once she had been restored from her apostasy (vv. 40-44). Ultimately, Jeremiah 32 reveals that Israel’s exile from the land and dispersion among the nations were temporary measures of God’s chastisement that will cease when the nations occupying the Holy Land are defeated by Jehovah Himself (Isa. 30:32; 31:8) and Israel is gathered back from the uttermost parts of the earth (Jer. 30:3; 31:8, 10).

God’s Judgment upon the Nations and Restoration of Israel

In God’s chastisement of Israel due to Israel’s rebelliousness against Him, He allowed Satan to stir up the nations to disturb Israel (Isa. 14:12-15; Eph. 6:12b; cf. Dan. 10:13, 20). However, they were excessive in their actions. The nations assumed to be other lords besides Jehovah and acted as Israel’s master (Isa. 26:13a), practicing cruelty and idolatry (Isa. 14:5-6, 16-17; 21:9b), placing a yoke upon Israel (14:24-27), causing damage to Zion (14:29-32), and invading Israel (17:1-4, 12-14), among other evils. The nations’ overstepping and unrighteous acts against Israel compel God to judge the nations (Isa. 34:2; 33:1). God’s judgment of the nations should cause us to realize the need of salvation, as Witness Lee explained:

The more we consider the judgments exercised by God over the rebellious ones, the more we see that man needs God’s salvation, and this salvation is Christ Himself. The more I study the world situation, the more I realize that the only way to solve the problems in today’s world is for Christ to come. And we must believe that He is coming. As He is waiting, He is preparing everything, including all of us, for His coming. All things are working together to bring our thought, our concept, and our understanding concerning human life and the human race to a deep aspiration: “Lord Jesus, You must come back. If You are not here, there is no way. Everything must be judged by You. Lord, You must come.” (Life-study of Isaiah, 77)

To place our trust in man, in the nations with their political systems and social values, all of which have come under God’s judgment, is foolhardy. Brother Lee applied this in the following way:

The lesson of Jehovah’s humiliating judgment is that we should stop regarding man “whose life breath is in his nostrils” (v. 22a). We should not put our trust in man. Concerning man, Isaiah asks, “For of what value is he considered to be?” (v. 22b). The answer is that man is nothing. (Life-study of Isaiah, 25)

Failing to see God’s ways in carrying out His economy may result in our falling under God’s chastisement as well. If we become distracted by the outward course of human affairs rather than the central work of God to cause the believers to grow and mature in the divine life for the building up of the Body of Christ we also may experience this chastisement. God’s judgment is not limited only to the nations but extends to His people who place their trust and hope in the nations, as represented by Egypt in Isaiah 30:1-3 and 31:1-7. Concerning this danger Brother Lee observed:

In typology Egypt signifies the world. Whenever God’s people are in a fallen condition or low estate, they go to Egypt (Gen. 42:10). Abraham did this (Gen. 12:10). Today, when Christians become low, they often go to the world. To go to Egypt, to rely upon Egypt, or to make an association with Egypt is sin. To go to the world or to rely upon the world can never be a profit, glory, or help to us. It always issues in humiliation, shame, and reproach (Isa. 30:5). (Life-study of Isaiah, 113)

In the last days of the present age Satan will motivate the nations to war against Israel seeking its destruction (Isa. 29:2-8). Isaiah 30:27-28 says:

Behold, the name of Jehovah comes from a distance, burning with His anger and heavy with smoke; His lips are full of indignation, and His tongue is like a devouring fire; His breath, like an overflowing stream, reaches up to the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of nothingness; and a bridle that leads them to err is in the jaws of the peoples.

Thus, Jehovah will carry out His judgment upon the nations, fighting against them Himself (30:32). The nations will fall by the sword of Jehovah, not of men (31:8).

From Israel’s perspective, the rising up of the nations will be “a time of distress,” but a remnant of Israel will be saved by Jehovah from imminent destruction, who will descend upon Mount Zion to wage war against the nations (Jer. 30:7; Isa. 31:4-5). The completion of God’s chastisement of Israel (Jer. 30:11-20) and the execution of His judgment upon the nations will result in the restoration of Israel to Jehovah, her Maker and her Husband (Isa. 54:5). Jehovah will appear to Israel from afar, loving her with a bridal love, drawing her with lovingkindness, and restoring her out of her desolation (Jer. 2:2, 4-5; 31:3).

The Second Coming of Christ Issuing in the Restoration of Israel

Due to the diminished territorial boundaries held by the nation of Israel in the present day, we may overlook how vast is the extent of the land covenanted by God to Israel. We should not be distracted by the present boundaries of nations or modern thoughts of social justice concerning who are the rightful inhabitants of which lands today, nor should we conflate the present political state of Israel with the nation of Israel, God’s people, of the biblical record. In the restoration Israel will be restored to its originally covenanted territorial boundaries, a land stretching from the river to the sea, that is, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west (Deut. 11:24; Isa. 26:15; 27:12). Jerusalem will be rebuilt after its destruction and all the Jews will be gathered from among the nations to return to the Holy Land (Isa. 24:10, 12; Jer. 30:3; 31:8-40). Jerusalem with Mount Zion will become a place of feasting (25:6), a center to which all the peoples of the earth will come to find enjoyment and satisfaction (Isa. 2:2-3), and Israel will become foremost among the nations (Isa. 2:2).

Although the nations have sought the destruction of the Jews throughout history, in the coming millennium Jehovah will cause Israel to be multiplied in number and honored among the nations (Jer. 30:19). Her reproach will be removed from the earth (Jer. 25:8), her seed will never be cut off (Jer. 31:35; 33:25-26), and she will dwell in the land securely (Jer. 33:16). The nations will regard Israel as “a name of gladness and a praise and a glory” to Jehovah (Jer. 33:9). The fulfillment of God’s judgment of the nations will usher in Christ as the King reigning over the earth from Zion, judging between the nations and deciding matters among the peoples, with instruction going forth from Zion and the Word of Jehovah from Jerusalem (Isa. 2:3-4). Under Christ’s just rule, the nations will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks (v. 4; cf. Hos. 2:18), and Israel will walk in the light of Jehovah (Isa. 2:5). Lebanon will flourish as a fruitful field (29:17), the deaf will hear and the blind will see (v. 18), the afflicted will rejoice and exult in Jehovah (v. 19), those who terrorize Israel will cease to be (v. 20), those who erred will gain understanding and wisdom (v. 24), and Israel will not be ashamed but will sanctify the name of Jehovah (v. 23).


We should not misinterpret God’s temporary chastisement of Israel as a forsaking. Nor should we become distracted from God’s economy by the political and social conflicts of the present day. God’s chastisement of Israel and His judgment upon the nations for their excessive treatment of Israel will issue in the return of Israel to Jehovah, the restoration of creation, and the ushering in of Christ. If we have the proper view of God’s way in carrying out His economy we will be preserved from falling under God’s judgment and strengthened in our preparation for Christ’s return.