“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”
In these precious and powerful words we see the heart of Jesus for His covenant people, Israel. His love for that unique nation had remained consistent since the days of the Patriarchs. “The LORD did not set his love upon you,” He said to His people through Moses, “nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8a). It was Christ Who had appeared to Abram in a vision (Genesis 15:1). It was He Who called and commissioned Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14; John 8:24, 58). It was He Who followed and provided for the people in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). He was the glory of God that filled the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34 cf Hebrews 1:1-3). Our Lord’s desire to gather the people unto Himself is a clear allusion to His deity; there are several references in Scripture to God’s desire for the very same thing. Isaiah 40:11 is a particularly precious promise: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (also see Psalm 50:5). Despite His faithfulness and unfailing love for His people, when He came to them they did not receive Him (John 1:11). Our Lord’s heart was heavy as He looked at Israel, locked in unbelief. His care and concern for them was echoed by His special servant, Paul. “I say the truth in Christ,” wrote the great apostle, “I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:1-3). For their rejection of their king, national-ethnic Israel was slated for devastation at the hands of the Romans (Luke 19:41-44 cf Daniel 9:26). As sad and tragic as this is, we may be sure that God exercised supreme sovereignty over it all (Acts 2:23-24; 13:27-30). Israel’s rejection of her Messiah was integral to Christ establishing a New and better Covenant (Hebrews 8:6; 12:24). Jew and Gentile alike may enter that same covenant thereby becoming part of one body in Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22). When that body is taken to heaven (John 14:1-3) and “the fullness if the Gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:25), Israel will recognize and receive her Messiah. At long last, the Lord’s desire will be granted as He gathers His elect nation to Himself (Matthew 24:31). Let us reflect upon, and praise God for, His matchless love, grace, wisdom, and sovereignty, come to maximal expression in the Gospel of His dear Son.