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THE PROPHESIED CONVERSION OF THE JEWS
– APPLIED TO GENTILES

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, November 14, 2010

“Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth” (Jeremiah 31:18-19).


Dr. A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) wrote an essay titled, “Why We Are Lukewarm About Christ’s Return.” He said,

      Shortly after the close of the First World War, I heard a great Southern preacher say that he feared the intense interest in prophecy current at that time would result in a dying out of the blessed hope [of Christ’s Second Coming] when events proved the excited interpreters wrong. The man was a prophet, or at least a remarkably shrewd student of human nature (The Best of A. W. Tozer, compiled by Warren W. Wiersbe, Baker Book House, 1978, p. 55).

It is true that books on prophecy continue to be sold. Some preachers still speak on prophetic themes. But the excessive preaching on prophecy after both World Wars caused a reaction. They said Hitler was the Antichrist. They said that the world would end in an atomic explosion – things like that. When events showed they were wrong, many preachers gave up preaching on Bible prophecy. The signs of Christ’s Second Coming were rapidly replaced. The Calvinists pushed them all back into the first century. The Dispensationalists crammed them all into the seven-year Tribulation at the very end of this age. I think both approaches are wrong.

Our text is very powerful. It has a prophetic significance, and it has a personal significance. Let us examine it from both angles.

“Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth” (Jeremiah 31:18-19).

I. First, the prophetic significance of the text.

It is addressed to Ephraim, which is a name God often used to describe Israel. The text refers to the future, when Israel will repent and be saved. The end of Jeremiah 30:24 says, “In the latter days ye shall consider [understand] it” (Jeremiah 30:24). Immediately following that, the Scofield note says, “Summary: Israel in the last days,” just before chapter 31 (The Scofield Study Bible, p. 805). Dr. J. Vernon McGee saw this as a prophecy (Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume III, p. 402; note on Jeremiah 30:24) – but I think he pushed it too far into the future, to “the Kingdom Age.”

God has remarkably blessed the Jewish people in recent years. In 1948 the Nation of Israel was established. Jews who had been dispersed and persecuted throughout the world for two thousand years began to return to their homeland. Israel is surrounded on all sides by fiercely anti-Jewish Muslim countries. But God has protected Israel – miraculously. This is a “sign” of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ!

Furthermore, God has stirred the hearts of many Jewish people. More of them have come to Jesus in the last thirty-five years than in the nineteen hundred previous years combined!

I sat on the floor with a group of young people in Corte Madera, California in 1973, when Moishe Rosen officially started “Jews for Jesus.” I was proud to call him my friend. He performed our wedding. My family and I went to see him at his home, exchange gifts, and have lunch together in the summer of 2009. Ileana and I went back to San Francisco to attend his funeral earlier this year. Moishe Rosen was a great evangelist. It has been estimated that, directly or indirectly, he was the human instrument responsible for more Jewish conversions to Jesus than any other man since the days of the Apostles.

Surely this is a “sign” of the Second Coming. Few modern commentators say that our text refers prophetically to the conversion of the Jews. Yet, strangely, Dr. John Gill (1697-1771) saw it quite clearly back in the 18th century! He said, “…the prophecy seems to respect the conversion of them [the Jews] in the latter days” (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the Old Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume 5, p. 573; note on Jeremiah 31:18). Again, Dr. Gill said, “In such a sense will the Jews be turned in the latter day” (ibid., p. 574). Jesus Himself predicted the dispersion of the Jews, and their return to Jerusalem at the end of this age,

“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).

And the Apostle Paul gave this prediction,

“Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:25-26).

The prophet Zechariah said,

“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10).

That shows the prophetic significance of our text,

“Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth” (Jeremiah 31:18-19).

But we must not leave the text as only an interesting prophecy of the coming redemption of Israel. In his essay, “Exposition Must Have Application,” Dr. Tozer said, “There is scarcely anything so dull and meaningless as Bible doctrine taught for its own sake” (A. W. Tozer, D.D., The Best of A. W. Tozer, compiled by Warren W. Wiersbe, Baker Book House, 1979, p. 140). Therefore we must apply the text to those among us who are not yet converted.

“Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth” (Jeremiah 31:18-19).

This takes us to the second point of the sermon.

II. Second, the personal significance of the text.

“Turn thou me, and I shall be turned.” Dr. Gill said that this refers to “the first work of conversion; which lies in a man’s being turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God; is a turn of the heart…of the will, affections, and bias of the mind; it is a turning of persons to the Lord Jesus Christ…that it is not in the power of man to do it; that he is not active, but passive in it; that it [conversion] is the Lord’s work, and his only” (John Gill, D.D., ibid., p. 574).

“Turn thou me, and I shall be turned.” But if God does not “turn” you from sin to Christ you will not be turned! Someone may say, “This is highly Calvinistic!” Well, no one ever accused Dr. Tozer of being a “high Calvinist.” Just the opposite. He was an Arminian! Yet Dr. Tozer was a Bible-believer, and so he said,

By a complete misunderstanding…of the freedom of the human will salvation is made to depend perilously upon the will of man instead of upon the will of God. However deep the mystery, however many the paradoxes involved, it is still true that men become saints not at their own whim but by sovereign calling. Has not God by such words as these taken out of our hands the ultimate choice? “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” [John 6:63]”… “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” [John 6:37)]… “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” [John 6:44]… “Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him” [John 17:2]… “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me” [Galatians 1:15-16]…The right of determination must always remain with God (A. W. Tozer, D.D., “The Mystery of the Call,” in The Divine Conquest, Christian Publications, 1950, p. 48).

“Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth” (Jeremiah 31:18-19).

I would call this “turning” “awakening” – when the Spirit of God brings a man under deep conviction of sin. “Surely after that I was turned, I repented.” Only after an unconverted person is “turned” by God will he experience true evangelistic repentance, with grief over his sin and faith in Jesus. Thus, real conversion comes from God – or it does not come at all! In the Book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah prayed,

“Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned”
       (Lamentations 5:21).

You can never “learn” how to become a Christian! You can never “learn” how to come to Christ! If you try, you will remain,

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:7).

Then what can you do? Well, you can begin to pray the words of our text,

“Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God” (Jeremiah 31:18).

If that becomes a sincere and constant prayer from your heart – not just words, but a real striving “to enter in” to Christ (Luke 13:24) – it may not be too long before God answers you – and turns you to His Son, who died on the Cross to pay your sin-penalty, and rose from the dead to give you eternal life.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Jeremiah 31:31-34.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (translated by John M. Neale, 1818-1866).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE PROPHESIED CONVERSION OF THE JEWS
– APPLIED TO GENTILES

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth” (Jeremiah 31:18-19).

I.   First, the prophetic significance of the text, Jeremiah 30:24;
Luke 21:24; Romans 11:25-26; Zechariah 12:10.

II.  Second, the personal significance of the text, John 6:63, 37, 44;
John 17:2; Galatians 1:15-16; Lamentations 5:21;
II Timothy 3:7; Luke 13:24.