Nitzavim – The Unintended Irony of Replacement Theology

Nitzavim – The Unintended Irony of Replacement Theology

Deuteronomy 30 is one of the most remarkable passages in the entire Bible. To help us appreciate this extraordinary prophecy of Moses, let’s review the chapters leading up to it.

The context of Deuteronomy 30

In Deuteronomy 28, Moses related to the people of Israel the blessings for obedience and punishments for disobedience to God’s law. Near the end of the chapter, we see that the ultimate punishment for disobedience is exile and dispersion.

Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known — wood and stone. – Deuteronomy 28:64

Then, in chapter 29, Moses continues by telling the nation that while they are in exile, the land will lie desolate. Moses even describes how, in the future, people from other nations will see the destruction of the land and the exile of the Jewish people and conclude that God has done this because the Jews turned their backs on God. (Deut. 29:22-28) More on that later.

Deuteronomy 30 is happening today

Then comes Deuteronomy 30. Here, Moses tells the people that after many generations of dispersion to the four corners of the earth, they will return to the land. 

The Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. – Deuteronomy 30:3-5

The modern state of Israel today is populated by millions of Jews from every corner of the earth. The Jewish people have returned en masse to our land. We have taken possession of it in the form of Jewish sovereignty. Israel is a prosperous nation. And there are more Jews in the land than at any other time in history. Every detail of this biblical prophecy spoken over 3300 years ago has been fulfilled in our time. Ever since then, everyone who read the Bible saw these verses as a future prophecy. But today, we live in a time when every word of these verses is a reality. 

Christian Replacement Theology

But not all who profess belief in the Bible see these verses this way. For most of the past 2000 years, the standard doctrine of Christianity regarding the Jews was what is known as Supersessionism or Replacement Theology. This is the belief that the church had replaced Israel. 

According to Supersessionism, the Jewish people were originally the chosen people in covenant with God. However, due to their disobedience and violation of the covenant, the Jews lost this status. The covenant of Israel was transferred to the church. For those who adhere to this belief today, the modern state of Israel is not a fulfillment of Deuteronomy 30. When they look at the millions of Jews from all corners of the earth who populate the land of Israel under Jewish sovereignty, they do not see Biblical prophecy fulfilled. 

Unwittingly fulfilling prophecy

But here’s the irony: their denial that the modern state of Israel is a fulfillment of these prophecies is included in the prophecies themselves!

Just a few verses before the Deuteronomy 30 prophecy we quoted, the Bible says:

It will be said by the coming generation of your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, when they see the plagues of that land and the sicknesses which the Lord has laid on it, ‘The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning; it cannot be sown, it cannot sprout, nor can any grass grow in it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and His wrath.’ All nations will say, ‘Why has the Lord done so to this land? What is this furious anger mean?’ Then people would say: ‘Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt; for they went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods that they did not know and that He had not given to them. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against this land, to bring on it every curse that is written in this book. And the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.’ “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. – Deuteronomy 29:21-28

Here, Moses foretells a time when the nations will look at the exile of the Jews and the desolation of the land of Israel and conclude that the covenant between Israel and God has ended. It’s worth noting that the nations in this passage are familiar with the text of the Bible. The text explicitly states that they will compare the land of Israel to the cities that God overturned in Genesis 19. Furthermore, these people are clearly aware of “every curse that is written in this book.” 

Incredibly, Moses described people from the nations of the world who know and believe in the Bible but also believe that God’s covenant with the Jewish people has ended. Imagine hearing this prophecy when Moses originally spoke it over 3300 years ago. This detail would seem absurd. Why would there be nations who profess belief in the Bible but believe that God has broken His covenant with the Jewish people? Without the founding and spread of Christianity, who among the nations of the world even know about the Bible? 

Christian theologians who promoted Replacement Theology looked at the seemingly endless exile of the Jews and the desolation of the land and came to the exact conclusion foretold by Moses in these verses. From the reality that they saw before them it appeared that God had revoked the covenant from the Jewish people.  Ironically, by espousing their erroneous doctrine these theologians were fulfilling this prophecy without even realizing it!

So why did they make this mistake? The answer is right here in this text as well. Immediately after this prediction of Supersessionism Moses tells us that “The secret things belong to the Lord.” In other words, don’t think that you can look at reality and come to your own conclusions about God based on what you see in front of you. Even if in your time it looks to you like God has given up on Israel, don’t draw your own conclusions about God’s plans. Read the Bible. The covenant is forever.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is a weekly contributor to Israel365 and cohost of the Shoulder to Shoulder podcast.

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