In his book, Culture Matters, author Jeffrey Sachs writes of a time in the early 1800’s when certain nations experienced considerable growth. He writes, “All regions of the world experienced a rise in per capita income after 1820. The two groups of nations already ahead in 1820, Western Europe and what Angus Maddison terms Western off-shoots (the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) pulled further ahead, and today constitute most of the developed world.” Sachs continues his discussion of the economic domination of these peoples by pointing out the powerful geographical patterns. They occupied the choice places of the earth in terms of temperate regions and the endowment of mineral resources. For us, who have an understanding of what God has done and is doing with physical and spiritual Israel and indeed all of mankind, it is gratifying to read material such as this and to see promises that God made to Abraham long ago come to fruition — and we understand why. We realize that it was all God’s doing.
In the books of Genesis and Deuteronomy we read of birthright promises being made to the sons of Joseph – Ephraim and Manasseh (see Genesis 49:22-26 and Deuteronomy 33:13-17). We can note that these promises include, “With the precious fruits of the sun, with the precious produce of the months, with the best things of the ancient mountains, with the precious things of the everlasting hills, with the precious things of the earth and its fulness …” (Deuteronomy 33:14-16). What Sachs has observed fits perfectly with God’s birthright promises to Abraham’s descendants.
The reason that so many of the physical promises were delayed was Israel’s disobedience. God had warned them that if, after they had experienced the good of the land to which He was taking them, they began to forget Him as the provider of the benefits, there would be consequences. “Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:19-20). Israel turned her heart away from God and as a result, after much warning, they were taken into captivity around 720 BC. “Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone” (2 Kings 17:18).
God had already made it clear when telling Israel of the wonderful blessings He would provide, that if they did not obey Him and observe all His commandments they would be punished “seven times more for your sins” (Leviticus 26:14-18). If we use the day for a year principle shown in scripture (Ezekiel 4:4-6) then it is clear that the birthright promises would be delayed in their greater fulfillment by 2520 years. It is not coincidental that Britain and the United States began a period of rapid growth and expansion around 1800. God had promised Jacob that a nation and a company of nations would proceed from him (Genesis 35:10-11). Jacob’s son Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who received the birthright promises through Jacob (Genesis 48:14-20). God promised to Abram in His word that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3).
What we need to be mindful of is that this provides us with the basic foundation from which to view world events as they unfold. While God faithfully blessed the birthright people as they were obedient, He is also faithful to His word which describes what He would do if they did not obey Him and acknowledge Him as the provider of these blessings. God has never deviated from the concept that Israel should be an example of God’s way of life to all nations. “Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord …”(Deuteronomy 28:10). If they failed to uphold God’s name, then there would be consequences (see Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28).
God said there would be national decline, which would ultimately end in the nations going into captivity. The lack of moral fiber in the modern nations which are the descendants of ancient Israel is as a cancer eating away at the inside of their respective national characters. The retribution that God warned of, if they were to turn away from Him, is being fulfilled in our time today. Prophecy is being fulfilled before our eyes and we are privileged to know the causes and reasons so we can translate that knowledge into the necessary action in our personal lives. While physical Israel is declining as God said it would, spiritual Israel is to grow stronger as a witness to the world of God’s plan of salvation for mankind. This is exactly the good news that this world needs.
God has given us the context for understanding world events, so let us determine to translate that understanding into the action of growing in spiritual character. Prophetic speculation is titillating and to some degree natural, but it is not the substance of spiritual growth and development unless we use it to be inspired to turn wholeheartedly to God and His law. This world needs the shining example of a people who are “called by the name of the Lord” in order to know there is a right and better way – better than anything they can see around them now.