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Taking God's Name in Vain

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Pat Robertson has gone on record claiming that God punished Ariel Sharon with a massive stroke for “dividing God’s land.” How does Robertson know this? He doesn’t. Attaching God’s name to a claim does not make it so. Robertson violated the third commandment (Ex. 20:7) by using God’s name “in vain” to give authority to an unsubstantiated assertion. Pat Boone, yes, that Pat Boone, gets it right when he states the following: “Quoting verses from Scripture selectively and then giving them broad, generalized application in support of the side you’re advancing is akin to taking the name of the Lord in vain. . . .”[1]

Sharon’s medical condition is more likely the result of being 77 years old, the pressure of his job, and obesity. Don’t get me wrong, God does strike down people. He did it to Nadab and Abihu (Num. 3:4), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–6), and Herod (12:23). In these cases, the Bible tells us that God brought immediate judgment and why. Determining acts of divine judgment today can be risky (Luke 13:4; John 9:1–3). Robertson went on to say:

God has enmity against those who divide my land. [Sharon] was dividing God’s land, and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the European Union, the United Nations, or the United States of America. God says: “This land belongs to me. You’d better leave it alone.”

Robertson pointed to the Bible to make his case about the land of Israel not being divided: “In the book of Joel, the prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has ‘enmity against those who divide My land.’” It’s obvious that there is a context to Joel 3:2 that does not refer to modern-day Israel. Dispensationalists seem to believe that the only way prophecy can be fulfilled is through bloodshed. Why did God punish Sharon and not the Palestinians? They are the ones who are pushing for a divided Israel. Why doesn’t God strike down the president of Iran who believes Israel should be “wiped off the map”?

We’re back to eschatology and why it matters. Jesus Christ is the focus of history, not the land of Israel. Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy, not ethnic Israel. Our salvation comes by way of Jesus’ shed blood, not the shed blood of Jews (Zech. 13:8) or anyone else. Dispensationalism has created a foreign policy nightmare with its insistence that Israel is still the center of history, geography, and redemption.

Charles Ryrie states that Israel is to have “permanent possession of the promised land.”[2] John Walvoord concurs: “A literal interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant involves the permanent existence of Israel as a nation and the fulfillment of the promise that the land should be their everlasting possession.”[3] If something is permanent, there can’t be a postponement, especially one that’s been in effect for nearly two millennia. As we stand right now, the Abrahamic covenant has been in its postponement phase longer than its fulfillment phase since dispensationalists claim that Israel never had full possession of all the land promised to them. The Israelites did enter and possess the land that God promised to give to them:

So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. And the LORD gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hand. Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass (Josh. 21:43–45).

All the elements necessary for the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant as related to the land are present in these verses: God gave the Israelites the land He had promised to give; they possessed and lived in the land; they had rest; their enemies did not stand before them; not one of the promises God made to the house of Israel failed. If these verses do not teach what they seem to teach, then how else could God have put it, said it, or written it if He had wanted to inform the Israelites that they had in fact possessed the land as promised? Even after being confronted with these crystal clear words from Joshua, futurists continue to insist that they do not teach what they seem to teach. Consider the commentary of Old Testament scholar Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.:

Oftentimes students of the Bible point to three passages that appear to suggest that the promise of land to Israel has indeed been fulfilled: Joshua 21:43–45; 23:14–15; Nehemiah 9:8. These texts assert that “not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled” (Josh. 21:45; cf. 23:14). However, the boundaries mentioned in Numbers 34:2–12 are not the ones reached in the accounts of Joshua and Judges. For example, Joshua 13:1–7 and Judges 3:1–4 agree in maintaining that there was much land that remained to be taken.[4]

So much for a literal interpretation of Bible prophecy. Since Numbers 34:2–12 and Joshua 13:1–7 precede Joshua 21:43–45, it seems obvious that by the time we get to the end of the book of Joshua the land was in Israel’s possession even though there were nations dwelling in Israel’s midst (Josh. 23:4–7). Just because other nations resided in the land does not mean that Israel did not have full possession of the land. What about Judges 3:1–4? While the land was possessed and was in the hands of the Israelites before Joshua died, some nations were left “to test Israel . . . to find out if they would obey the commandments of the LORD” (Judges 3:1, 4). It was Israel’s disobedience that put the land back into the hands of her enemies. God delivers Israel through Othniel, and then we read, “Then the land had rest forty years” (3:11): Not part of the land, but the land—the land occupied by Israel—had rest.

Jesus is the focal point of history not dirt (land), stone (temple) (John 2:19; 3:20–24; Eph. 2:19–22; 1 Peter 2:4–8), or a racial group (John 1:13). Nothing in the New Testament is said about a return to the land or a rebuilding of the temple as a necessary prelude to the Second Coming of Christ. The New Testament only describes the destruction of the temple (Matt. 23:38; 24:2) and indifference to the land (Matt. 28:18–20; Acts 8:1).

Endnotes:

[1] Pat Boone, “The Vain and God’s Name,” WorldNetDaily (December 17, 2005): www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=47942
[2] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1953), 48. Emphasis added.
[3] John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (Grand Rapids, MI: Dunham Publishing Co., 1959), 139–140. Emphasis added.
[4] Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Back Toward the Future: Hints for Interpreting Biblical Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1989), 111.

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