Jun 1 2012
Question: If all of the Bible is inspired by God and is good for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy:3:16,17) and if God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Malachi:3:6; Hebrews:13:8), can’t Old Testament teachings and especially prophecies made to Israel also be applied to America?
Response: The Old Testament does contain numerous things applicable to believers today, including the history of God’s dealing with humanity, and in particular, with Israel. “Now all these things happened unto them [Israel] for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians:10:11). Clearly, we can draw an application for our edification from the Old Testament.
It also gives us prophecy, some of which (but not all, as yet) have been fulfilled in the New Testament, giving us assurance that our faith is not a “blind faith” but established by testable evidence. It tells of creation and the Lord’s design for this world and its inhabitants. It also speaks of the salvation that will be fully revealed in Christ.
The key to understanding how the Old Testament is to be used today is basic to Paul’s admonition, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy:2:15). Consequently, we must discern to whom the Lord is speaking and what applications may reasonably pertain to a certain subject. This is a matter of recognizing the context and understanding the content. As the saying goes, “A text taken out of context is a pretext.” When that happens, the text cannot be correctly understood at best and will be misleading at worst.
For example, if a believer today takes David’s words in the Psalms: “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (51:11) and attempts to apply them to himself, he has missed the context and has contradicted a New Testament doctrine. When David sinned, as he did with Bathsheba, the Holy Spirit left him. When he repented by confessing his sin to God, the Holy Spirit was restored to him, enabling him to write the Psalm. The Holy Spirit did not take up permanent residence within a believer until after Christ ascended into heaven (John:16:7). When a believer sins today, God will convict and correct him (Hebrews:12:5-7), but He will not take His Holy Spirit from him (Ephesians:1:13-14).
The Old Testament provides for believers today a historical record of the people and events that can be proven. We can get a glimpse of our God’s longsuffering with His people. We learn to have a fear of the Lord (for this is the beginning of wisdom–Psalm:111:10, Proverbs:9:10). We see that in spite of all that Israel has done, our God is merciful. He does not completely destroy them (Isaiah10: 20-22). We get a view as to the holiness of God and see how seriously God reacts to sin. These are only a few.
Looking, however, to prophecies given specifically to Israel and attempting to apply them to the American people in anything more than a general or spiritual way is taking erroneous liberties with both the context and the content.
We can learn from a prophetic judgment against Israel that God will deal with us personally regarding our sins of idolatry. But God does not judge America as a nation because He has no covenant with America—or any other Gentile nation for that matter. God has a covenant only with the nation of Israel, whom He has judged and will continue to judge in accordance to His prophecies.
God’s call to repentance , on the other hand, certainly goes out to unbelieving Americans (as well as to believers who need to repent), as it does to unbelievers throughout the world. There is, however, no collective salvation for Gentile nations, although salvation is offered to individuals within those nations.
We need to heed Paul’s exhortation to be careful regarding how we apply the Word of God (1 Corinthians:3:10).