Chapter 11: Why Israel Lost Identity
The mystery is now revealed! Not only the answer to what happened to the “Lost Ten Tribes”—but also why they so completely lost their identity!
The main vanguard of the Israelites—the northern kingdom—who bore the national name “kingdom of Israel”—became a nation lost in all history.
So far as historic records are concerned, the earth might as well have opened her mouth and swallowed them.
History does record their captivity by Assyria, 721–718 b.c. They were removed from their cities, towns and farms in their northern part of Palestine, taken as slaves to Assyria, on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. But by 604–585 b.c., when the southern kingdom of Judah was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Assyrians had migrated northwest—and the ten-tribed Israelites with them!
They were utterly gone! They were lost from view! How far northwest they proceeded, or where they finally settled, comes to a blank page in history.
How do historians and theologians explain this?
Not knowing the true answer, they explain it erroneously. They assume, in error, that all Israelites were Jews, and that the 13 million Jews in the world today constitute the entire population of Israelites remaining alive at this time. Some theologians falsely claim that all of the ten tribes who went into Assyrian captivity in 721–718 b.c. returned to Jerusalem with the Jews who returned to build the temple there 70 years after Judah’s captivity, 604–585 b.c. But that is total error. Only part of Judah went back. And those who returned were all of the three tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi. Check the genealogies in Ezra and Nehemiah.
The Jews are assumed to be Israel—and all of Israel—because they never lost their identity! There is a reason why the Jews did not lose their identity, while the house of Israel did!
God had given them a very special everlasting covenant containing a sign of identity.
The Special Covenant of Identity
It is not generally known or recognized that the Eternal made with His people, while still at Mt. Sinai, a separate, special, eternally binding covenant, providing for a sign of identity.
At this juncture, it must be pointed out that these people Israel were the only people on Earth with whom God then dealt personally as His people.
Remember, Adam and Eve had rejected the symbolic tree that represented God’s Holy Spirit, and a Father-and-son relationship with Him. Their descendants, cut off from God, strayed so far from His ways that by the time of Noah the Earth was filled with corruption and violence.
After the Flood, within two generations the world as a whole was following the apostate ways of Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-12; 11:1-9), and his mother-wife founded the apostate pagan religion that has engulfed and deceived the world ever since. This apostate religious system, started by Semiramis, flowed into all nations. In its perversions of truth, it evolved into different varieties and appeared under different national names in different nations. But it was the same basic system of apostasy. It cut the world off from God! And it grips a deceived world today—in its various forms, called by the names of various religions.
God selected these children of Israel because of the obedience of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. While they were in servitude and slavery He called them as His people, to whom His truth—His true religion and way of life and intended destiny for mankind—should be revealed.
God’s truth and God’s way revealed to these Israelites is simply God’s truth and His way for all peoples in all times and ages! Israel, had they followed God’s ways, was intended to be a living example to all nations.
Jesus came, not to do away with God’s truth or God’s way, not to bring a new religion, but to reveal additional truth about the coming Kingdom of God and how we may be born into it.
True, Old Testament Israel was given certain sacrificial rites and rituals which served merely as a reminder of sin (Hebrews 10:1-4; 9:10), only as a temporary substitute for Christ—until He should come. When the reality came, the substitute was dropped. But God’s truth and way remain eternally! Therefore God was revealing to Israel what His way is for all people of all time—including today!
This special identifying covenant, then, ordained forever, applies to all Christians today—to all who are reconciled to God as His people!
This special eternally binding covenant is found in Exodus 31:12-17. It has to do with one of those two test commandments, which, we saw in the last chapter, Israel was driven out and deprived of the birthright for violating.
The Identifying Sign
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep …” (Exodus 31:12-13).
Notice which day is “the Lord’s day.” The Eternal calls the Sabbaths “my sabbaths.” The Sabbaths are His—they did not belong to Israel—they are not our days, but the Lord’s. They are not “the Jewish Sabbaths” or “the Gentile Sabbaths.” The Sabbath is a space of time. That time, whenever it arrives, is not ours, but God’s.
And it applies the same to us today as to our forefathers then. If we appropriate it for ourselves—for our own use, whether work, pleasure, or whatever—we are stealing that time from God!
Notice again! He said: “My sabbaths ye shall keep.“ In Exodus 20:8 He commanded us to “keep it [the Sabbath] holy”—God made it holy time and commanded us to keep it holy—not to profane what is holy to God.
Now study this special covenant a little further: “… for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you” (Exodus 31:13). What tremendous meaning is packed in that portion of this sentence! Yet most people read right past it, failing to get the vital truth it contains!
Notice! Here is the purpose of the Sabbath: “… for it is a sign ….” What is a sign?
You walk down a main street in the business section of a city. Everywhere you see signs identifying stores, offices, factories. If you want to know what a sign is, just turn to the word in the Yellow Pages (the classified business listings of your telephone directory). You will find such names as “Jones Neon Sign Company” or “Smith Brothers Signs.” If you call one of them on the telephone and ask, “What do you make or sell?” he will tell you that they make signs for business firms, institutions, or professional individuals to hang in front of their places of business. The sign identifies whose establishment, institution or office is inside.
A sign is a badge, symbol, or token of identity. You see the sign, “A. B. Brown, Furniture and Furnishings.” The sign identifies the owner. It tells you what kind of business he owns. Webster’s dictionary defines a sign thus: “A publicly displayed notice on a building, office, etc. to advertise the business there transacted, or the name of the person or firm conducting it. Something indicating the existence of a thing; a token.” And, of course, there are the special technical meanings in mathematics, medicine, astronomy.
The word which Moses wrote in the Hebrew language which is translated “sign” is ‘ôwth, and the Hebrew-English dictionary defines it as “signal, as a flag, beacon, monument, evidence, etc.—mark, miracle, sign, token.” A flag identifies a nation. A beacon is a signal to announce the existence of something warned about. A token is a visible sign; something that serves as an identifying signal to make something known, as a white flag is a token of surrender.
God commanded His people to keep His Sabbath as a sign. It is a sign between God’s people and God: “… a sign between me and you,” the commandment says. It is a badge or token of identity. It advertises, or announces, or proclaims certain identifying knowledge. But what knowledge? God answers: “… that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.”
Who Is God?
Note those words carefully! It is the sign that identifies to them who is their God! It is the sign by which we may know that He is the Lord! It identifies God!
But doesn’t everybody know who God is? Absolutely not! This whole world is deceived—so says your Bible.
This world has a god—a false god—Satan the devil! He pretends to be “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). He has his religious organizations—his churches. Not all are Buddhist, Shintoist, Taoist, Confucianist. Many have appropriated the very name “Christian,” but their ministers, says your Bible, actually are Satan’s ministers: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness …” (verses 14-15).
But do they actually call themselves the ministers of Christ? Read the verse just before the two just quoted—verse 13: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.” Yes, Satan is the great counterfeiter. He palms himself off as God. He is called, in your Bible, the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). He palms off his ministers as the ministers of Christ—and they accuse the true ministers of Christ of being “false apostles” to divert suspicion from themselves!
Does this world’s “Christianity” really know the true God? It is deceived into believing it does, and a deceived world may be sincere in that false belief. One’s god is the one, or the thing, whom he serves and obeys. But the true God is the one whom we should obey.
This world is not taught to obey God! Its false “Christianity” teaches that God’s law is “done away.” It actually puts human conscience, actuated by Satan’s false teaching, in place of God’s law! It does not teach, as did Christ, that we must actually live by every word of God—all of the Bible! It obeys Satan by sinning! Satan, therefore, is this world’s god!
The Purpose of the Sabbath
God gave man His Sabbath for the purpose of keeping mankind in the true knowledge and true worship of the true God. But how does the Sabbath identify God—how does it point to the true God, rather than the false? Does not Sunday do just as well? Positively not!
Notice verse 17 of this special Sabbath covenant: “It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:17).
It was on the seventh day of that creation week that He rested from the work of creation. Not Sunday, the first day of the week. Only the seventh day of the week points back to creation.
How does that identify who God is?
If you believe anyone else or anything else is God, I will prove that my God is the true God, because whatever else you may think is God was made or created by the true God. He who created and made everything else is greater than whatever He made—superior to anything else that could be called god.
Creation is the proof of God—of His existence. It—the act of creating—identifies Him!
So God took the most enduring, lasting, imperishable thing man can know—a recurring space of time—the only day that is a memorial of the act of creating. He took the only day which points, constantly, every seventh day of the week, to God’s resting on the seventh day of creation week from creating; which points to the existence of the almighty, all-powerful, all-ruling God—the Creator!
And God set that particular day apart from others as His day—God made that particular day sacred and holy to Him—designating it as the very day on which He commands His people to assemble for worship—the day man is commanded to rest from his own work and physical pleasure—and to be refreshed by assembling with other obedient worshipers in spiritual fellowship!
No other day is a memorial and reminder of creation. True, Satan has deceived a deluded world into supposing Christ’s resurrection occurred on Sunday morning at sunrise—the very time which has always been the time of pagan sun worship. But this supposition is not true!
The resurrection of Christ actually occurred on the Sabbath, not on Sunday! And, further, nowhere in the Bible does God tell us to celebrate the day of Christ’s resurrection! That is a pagan custom of men, on apostate man’s authority alone—contrary to the commands of God!
Identifies People of God
So here we find a great purpose in the Sabbath. It identifies God! The very day which God set aside for assembly and worship points as a memorial to whom we are to worship—the Creator-Ruler of all that is!
But that is not all! The Sabbath also was given as a sign which identifies who are the people of God and who are not! Notice! Not only does this special covenant say, “… that ye may know that I am the Lord …” but read the remainder of that sentence: “… that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you” (Exodus 31:13).
Notice the tremendous meaning of that!
What does the word “sanctify” mean? It means “to set apart for holy use or purpose.” On the seventh day of the very creation week, the Eternal sanctified—that is, He set apart for holy use—the Sabbath day. But now we see that God says it is a sign that He, the Eternal, also sanctifies—sets apart from other people as His, for His holy purpose—those who are His people.
In Old Testament times His people were the people of Israel. In New Testament times, His people are those of God’s own Church—the truly converted, Spirit-begotten Christians!
But how does the Sabbath set them apart—separate them—from those who are not God’s own true people?
Well, if you have begun to keep God’s Sabbath holy, as He commands, you have found the answer already, by actual experience. If you haven’t, just start keeping God’s Sabbath holy as He commands you—and you’ll soon learn that you are automatically set apart from all other people! The world, people you know—some of your family and relatives, business associates, or contacts—they will set you apart!
The Sabbath is God’s sign, which identifies not only God as Creator-Ruler, but it also identifies those who are truly His people!
Definition of God
Let me give you still another definition of God. Although the only wise and true God is the great Creator-Ruler of the universe, there are many false or counterfeit gods. Satan palms himself off to the deceived as God—and indeed the Bible plainly calls him the god of this world. Idols were worshiped as gods—and still are, today, even in so-called “Christian” churches. Whoever, or whatever, you serve and obey is your god!
The very word “Lord” means ruler, master, boss—the one you obey! Jesus exclaimed: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). If they did not obey Him, then He was not their Lord! So why did they call Him Lord, when He was not their Lord?
Then again, Jesus said: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Only they who obey God can be His children and enter His Kingdom! Your God is the one you obey!
Notice again: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey …?” (Romans 6:16).
Regarding idols as false and counterfeit gods, the Second Commandment says: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them [that is, obey them]: for I the [Eternal] thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity [disobedience] of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6).
The Real Test Commandment
How significant! The Sabbath command is the only one of the 10 which is a sign identifying who are the real and true Christians today! It is the real test command!
A man may be honest and upright in his dealings with others—he may have a reputation of not lying or stealing. But that does not identify him—set him apart—especially as a Christian!
Many non-Christians honor their parents—at least so far as other people know. Many are regarded by others as truthful, true to husband or wife; many do not swear or use profanity; and most are not murderers—in the eyes of others.
But their supposed conformity to these commandments does not stamp them as different—as being God’s people! Actually, few keep even these commandments in the spirit, but that is not obvious to the world. But it is very obvious to the world when one keeps God’s Sabbath!
That’s why few do! People don’t want to be identified as being apart from the world—as belonging to God, apart from the world! People want to be identified, in the eyes of others, as belonging to the world—but feel ashamed to be identified, in the eyes of friends, business contacts, relatives, as belonging to God.
The people of the world are willing to acknowledge the other nine commandments—but the Sabbath command is the one they positively rebel against! It is the one that is the crucial test of obedience! It identifies those who have surrendered their wills to God—who obey God, regardless of persecution or cost!
Oh, it sets you apart, all right! What a sign!
It identifies the true God on the very day He set apart for assembly and worship. It identifies the real people of God! It identifies those who keep the Sabbath as being God’s people—to the world, that is! Actually, few Jews really keep the Sabbath holy! It may not identify them to God as His people, spiritually! But they do at least acknowledge that particular day! And even though in God’s sight they profane it, it identifies them to the world!
God’s sign is one you accept voluntarily—of your own volition, or not at all. But the “beast” (symbol of the coming resurrected, so-called Holy Roman Empire in Europe) has a mark, which is soon going to be branded on, by physical force! And it has something to do with “buying or selling”—trading, business, earning a living, having a job (Revelation 13:16-17; Revelation 13 and 17). Yes, this is the test command—the one on which your very salvation and eternity depend!
I have said that God made the Sabbath a separate, eternal, and perpetual covenant entirely separate and apart from what we term “the Old Covenant” made at Mt. Sinai. How, then, is it a covenant?
But Is It a Covenant?
Let’s define the word “covenant.” Webster defines a covenant as: “An agreement between persons or parties. A solemn compact.” A covenant is a contract, or agreement, by which one party promises certain rewards or payments in return for certain stipulated performance by the other party.
The Old Covenant between God and the children of
Israel made at Mt. Sinai imposed upon the people certain
terms and conditions to be performed: obedience to the Ten Commandments. It promised the reward of making Israel a nation “above all people.” The promises were purely national and material, for this world. The New Covenant is founded on better promises (Hebrews 8:6), which consist of an “eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).
Once a covenant is signed, sealed, or ratified—confirmed—it cannot be added to (Galatians 3:15). Anything appearing beneath the signature is not legally any part of the covenant. You read of the actual making of the Old Covenant and sealing it with blood in Exodus 24:6-8. And notice (verse 8), it concludes with the words “the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you ….” It was then already made—completed.
We do not come to the making of this special eternal Sabbath covenant until seven chapters later. It is, therefore, no part of the Old Covenant!
But, again, is it a covenant?
The wording in your Bible says it is! Notice Exodus 31:16: “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.”
“Perpetual” means continuous and unbroken. But was it to last forever? Read the following verse: “It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever ….”
Now what is the condition to be performed? The keeping holy of the Sabbath! “[I]t is holy unto you,” says God (verse 14). And what is the reward promised upon performance of the condition? It is not only a sign, but also a compact or covenant “between me and you,” says God, “that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you” (verse 13).
There it is! God promises to sanctify them—He will set them apart as holy—as His holy people! Can you ask for a bigger promise?
Yes, it is a covenant! It is a separate, totally different covenant. Even if one tries to argue that the Old Covenant is “abolished” and that therefore the Ten Commandments are abolished, he cannot argue that this covenant was to last only until the cross. The covenant is binding “throughout your generations” (verse 13); “a perpetual covenant” (verse 16) and “for ever” (verse 17).
Sign for Israel Only?
“Yes,” says the rebellious one who would argue his way out of obedience, “but it is between God and the children of Israel. It is throughout Israel’s generations; it is between God and the Israelites forever.”
Oh—then you admit it is binding forever on Israelites—and throughout their generations? There are two answers to that argument that will condemn you, if you so argue, to the lake of fire!
1) No one can deny that this absolutely binds the people of Israel to keep the Sabbath forever, and throughout their generations perpetually. Their generations are still going on. Therefore it is binding on them today.
Also you have to admit that salvation and Christianity are open to Jews and all Israelites. The gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
So then the Jew can be a converted Christian! Indeed, the Church at the beginning was nearly altogether Jewish! So the Jew, even though a Christian in God’s Church, is bound to keep God’s Sabbath as a perpetual covenant, throughout his generations, forever!
Now, does God have two kinds of Christians? Is it sin for a Jewish Christian to break the Sabbath, and sin for all others to keep it? Must Jewish Christians assemble on the Sabbath, and those of other nationalities on Sunday? Didn’t Jesus say a house divided against itself would fall?
Are there two kinds of Christians? Read Galatians 3:28-29: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye [Gentiles] be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
So, since the Sabbath is binding today on the Jewish part of God’s Church, and there is no difference—we are all one in Christ—it is also binding on Gentiles!
We Are Israel
2) But there is another answer to this argument: The peoples of the United States, the British Commonwealth nations, and the nations of northwestern Europe are, in fact, the peoples of the Ten Tribes of the house of Israel. The Jewish people are the house of Judah.
But if the Sabbath is God’s sign to identify His people Israel, then why don’t our nations keep it today?
The answer to that question is the answer to another: Why are the Ten Tribes of the house of Israel called “the Lost Ten Tribes”? And why do our nations think they are Gentiles? Why don’t they know their true identity?
Ah, now we have a staggering, startling, surprising truth to reveal! Here’s a dumbfounding truth, far stranger than fiction!
Here are facts, hidden for centuries, more intriguing than a mystery novel! Why is the Sabbath called, disrespectfully, sneeringly, “the Jewish Sabbath”? Why does the world think all Israelites are Jews, and that the Jews are all of the Israelites?
Here’s an astonishing surprise to those who have believed that! The Jews are only a small minority of the Israelites.
Israel Lost Sign
Nowhere in all the Bible are any of the ten-tribed nation of Israel called Jews. That name—Jews—applies only to the kingdom of Judah. Jews are Israelites, truly—but only part of the Israelites are Jews!
Almost immediately on being made a king, Jeroboam became afraid that, when his people journeyed to Jerusalem to attend the annual festivals, they would see and desire Rehoboam again for their king. He took swift action to protect his own position.
The tribe of Levi composed the priesthood. They were the leaders—the best educated. The Levites, living off the tithes, had enjoyed incomes two or three times larger than the other tribes. With one swift stroke, Jeroboam demoted the Levites, set the lowest and most ignorant of people to be the priests. He could control them! Thus he would control the religion, like Gentile kings had always done. Thereupon many, if not most, of the Levites went back into the kingdom of Judah—and became known as Jews.
So immediately Jeroboam set up two great idols for his people to worship. He ordered the fall festivals to be observed in the eighth month, at a place of his choosing north of Palestine—instead of in the seventh month, and at Jerusalem as God ordered (1 Kings 12:28-32). Also Jeroboam changed the Sabbath day from the seventh to the eighth—that is, to the day following the seventh day, which, of course, was actually the first day of the week. Thus he set the day for worship to coincide with the pagan day of the sun, now called Sunday!
Through the rule of 19 kings and seven successive dynasties, the ten-tribed house of Israel continued in the basic twin sins of Jeroboam: idolatry and Sabbath-breaking. Several of the kings added other evil and sinful practices.
But in 721–718 b.c., God caused the house of Israel to be invaded and conquered by the kingdom of Assyria. These Israelites were removed from their farms and their cities and taken to Assyria on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea as slaves. But the house of Judah—the Jews, a separate and different nation—were not invaded until 604 b.c.
Two or three generations after the captivity of Israel, however, the Chaldeans rose to world power, forming the first world-ruling empire. Under Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldeans (Babylon) invaded Judah (604–585 b.c.).
The Assyrians—before 604 b.c.—left their land north of Babylon and migrated northwest—through the lands that are now Georgia, Ukraine, Poland, and into the land that is called Germany today. Today the descendants of those Assyrians are known to us as the German people.
The people of ten-tribed Israel also migrated northwest. Though the Assyrians had taken Israel into captivity, the Israelites did not remain as slaves of the Assyrians in Europe. They continued on a little further—into Western Europe, the Scandinavian peninsula, and the British Isles!
Now why did they come to be known as the “lost Ten Tribes”? They had lost their national identifying sign!
King Jeroboam had changed their day of worship from the seventh to the first day of the week—the day of the sun—Sunday! All succeeding kings followed this practice, as well as idolatry!
As long as they remained in the land of Israel and called themselves “the kingdom of Israel” their identity was known. But in Assyria they were no longer a nation with their own government and their own king. They were mere slaves. They took up the language of the Assyrians as succeeding generations grew up. They lost the Hebrew language as biblical prophecy said they would. They lost all national identity.
After several generations, the tribe of Joseph, divided into the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, came to call themselves British. They retained a few Hebrew earmarks. Berith or b’rith in Hebrew means “covenant,” and ish means “man.” Thus, in Hebrew, British means “covenant man,” which, truly, they are.
The tribe of Reuben settled in the country that is France today. They had lost their national identity. But the French have the very characteristics of their ancestor, Reuben.
The ten tribes, known as the house of Israel, lost their identifying tag—God’s Sabbath.
That is why they lost their national identity!
Why Jews Are Recognized
But Judah kept the Sabbath! They did not continue long to keep it holy, or to keep it God’s way—but they did recognize it, as they do today, as the day of rest they acknowledge and observe. Result? All the world looks on them as the chosen people of God! The world thinks they are Israel—not merely Judah!
The Jews’ identity has not been lost! And since their identity as racial descendants from ancient Israel is known—and that of the far more numerous “Lost Ten Tribes” is not known—the world supposes that the Jews are Israel, instead of Judah. The Jewish people believe it themselves! And so, here again, the whole world is deceived, even as to the true identity of who really are the chosen birthright people of God!
Yes, the Sabbath, God’s day—the true Lord’s day—is, after all, the day for our people doubly: first, because it is for all people of God, even Gentile-born people who are now Christ’s; secondly, because racially, even by fleshly birth, it is God’s day which He gave our own forefathers and commanded to keep holy forever!
Why Israel Made Slaves
Do you know why the kingdom of Israel was invaded by Assyria, conquered, removed from their land as slaves in 721–718 b.c.? Do you know why the Jews (kingdom of Judah) were later taken captive and scattered over the world? Both houses of Israel were sent into national punishment and banishment from Palestine because they broke God’s Sabbath!
Does it make any difference? It certainly made a lot of difference to God! And He says He has not changed—He is the same yesterday, today, and forever! (Hebrews 13:8).
First, see why the Jews were invaded, conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and taken into Babylonian captivity during the years 604–585 b.c.
Seventy years after that captivity, according to Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jeremiah 29:10), many of the Jews returned to Palestine to rebuild the temple and restore the worship there. The Prophet Nehemiah tells why they had been driven into captive slavery 70 years before: “In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. … Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath” (Nehemiah 13:15-18).
There it is in plain language! Sabbath-breaking was a prime cause of Judah’s captivity! It was so important to God that He punished His own chosen people with this most severe national punishment—defeat in war, being taken from their land and made slaves in a foreign land! Sin is defined by God as the transgression of His law (1 John 3:4). His law says: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. … [T]he seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God ….” To work on the Sabbath, to defile it by your own pleasure seeking, doing business, etc. is a major sin, punishable by eternal death!
Jews Were Warned
The Jews were without excuse. They had been warned by the prophets. Notice the warning through Jeremiah: “Thus saith the [Eternal]; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day … neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. … But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched” (Jeremiah 17:21-22, 27).
That was the warning. The Jews did not heed it. Now see what happened!
“Now in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzar-adan, captain of the guard [today we would call him general of the armies, or field marshal], which served the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem, And burned the house of the [Eternal], and the king’s house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, and all the houses of the great men, burned he with fire” (Jeremiah 52:12-13).
When God warns, the punishment is sure!
Why Israel Defeated
Now see what happened to the other nation of Israelites, the kingdom of Israel, 117 years before Judah’s captivity.
God had laid down the choice to these people in the days of Moses, long before they were divided into two nations. This was fully covered in the previous chapter, regarding Leviticus 26. Now see what God said about it through the prophet Ezekiel.
Ezekiel was given a message from God to the house of Israel (not Judah—the Jews). Ezekiel was among the Jewish captives after their captivity, which occurred more than a hundred years after Israel’s captivity. By that time the Assyrians had long since left their land on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea and migrated northwest, finally settling in the land today called Germany.
The people of the house of Israel also migrated northwest across Europe. But they did not stop in Germany. They continued on farther west and north—into Western Europe—France, Belgium, Holland, the Scandinavian countries, and the British Isles—where they are to this day, except for the tribe of Manasseh, which much later migrated to North America and became the United States.
The prophet Ezekiel was commissioned to go from where he was, among the Jews, to the house of Israel. “[G]o speak unto the house of Israel,” said God (Ezekiel 3:1), and again: “[G]o, get thee unto the house of Israel …” (verse 4).
But Ezekiel never took that message to the lost house of Israel. He couldn’t. He was a slave among the Jews.
Yet he is taking it to them, today, by means of having written it in his book in the Bible—and by the fact that it is being taken to those very people today by the Plain Truth and the World Tomorrow broadcast!
It is a prophecy! It is a message for our peoples today! You are reading it now! God help you to heed!
Prophecy to Us, Today
Speaking first of ancient Israel, God says, in Ezekiel 20: “Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them” (verses 10-12).
Notice, this passage repeats the exact wording of the forever-binding Sabbath covenant of Exodus 31:12-17! Now continue: “But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments … and my sabbaths they greatly polluted …” (verse 13).
Then God pleaded with their children, a generation later: “But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols: I am the [Eternal] your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the [Eternal] your God” (verses 18-20).
The entire emphasis here is differentiating between God’s statutes, judgments and sabbaths on the one hand, and their fathers’ different sabbaths, statutes and judgments. They were observing a different day from God’s Sabbath! They had already turned to the pagans’ day, today called sunday—the day of the sun and sun worship!
“Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me,” continued God, through the prophet Ezekiel. “[T]hey polluted my sabbaths …” (verse 21).
So what did God finally do—generations later?
He scattered them, in national captivity and slavery (verse 23). But why?
“Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers’ idols” (verse 24). That’s why! Did it make any difference?
But now continue on in this amazing prophecy! Notice the prophecy for us, today!
Speaking of a time, sometime soon, in our time, God says to our peoples: “As I live, saith the Lord [Eternal], surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you” (verse 33).
The expression “fury poured out” refers to the seven last plagues, at the very time of the Second Coming of Christ (compare Revelation 16:1). The time when Christ will rule over us is at and after His Second Coming. So this, then, is a prophecy for our time!
Every prophecy in the Bible showing where our people (Israel) will be, at the Second Coming of Christ and the coming great exodus back to Palestine, pictures them in captivity and slavery once again.
Continue the prophecy: “And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered … with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people [coming exodus—Jeremiah 23:7-8], and there will I plead with you face to face” (Ezekiel 20:34-35).
Notice it! This is the Word speaking—Christ! He will then be on Earth again in person! And then He is going to plead with our people face to face.
It’s time to awake to the imminency and the stark seriousness of this!
Perhaps only one lone voice is warning you! But God used one lone voice to warn the world in Noah’s day; one lone voice in Elijah’s day; one lone voice in the day of John the Baptist; and after John the Baptist was put in prison, one voice in the person of Christ Himself! If you rely on the majority of sinning people, you will suffer their penalties with them!
Notice how He will plead!
“Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord [Eternal]. … And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me … and ye shall know that I am the Lord” (verses 36-38).
How did He plead with them? He pleaded: “Hallow my sabbaths, instead of your fathers’, so that you may know that I am the Lord.” And those of us who do go into Palestine shall know He is the Lord.
How shall we know?
By His Sabbath sign!
Read verses 42-44 in your own Bible! He says our people, when they are no longer rebellious and who will then be keeping His Sabbath, shall remember their ways in which they were defiled and shall loathe themselves for their Sabbath-breaking! This is pretty strong teaching! It is the Word of God speaking to you!