We had the amazing opportunity last week to do four hours of teaching with a group of 25 young adults in Federal Heights, CO. Our topic was the very subject we will be bringing to Las Vegas, Southern California, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and Dallas as we continue on our five week long journey:
God’s heart and plan for Israel and the Jewish people and how we as Christians have a vital role in it.
As we have been journeying together with the Lord ministering to the Church and blessing the nation and people of Israel we are asked often: What’s the deal with Israel?
The following is an essay which was written about 5 years ago and can be found on the Zealous 8:2 website http://www.zealous82.com. There really is no need for me to rewrite it as it is written so well. I hope the lord sparks something new in you as you read it.
If you or someone you know is between the ages of 18 and 30 and would be interested in a tour of Israel designed for young adults please message me for information on our upcoming June tour.
What’s the Deal with Israel?
Why are so many Christians starting to get interested in the nation of Israel? Is this the Israel of the Bible, the Israel of God, or merely the result of human politics with an unfortunate name? Do we as Christians have a connection with the nation and people of Israel by virtue of our faith in the God of the Bible, the God of Israel? If you have ever asked such questions, then we have attempted to answer them, or at least give food for further thought. Our intention is to offer a resource to the honest enquirer.
It’s about God, not Israel
What I mean by this is that God’s relationship with Israel is primarily about Him and not about them. Whenever we make God’s dealings primarily about the people, we have put the cart before the horse. We have made man, not God, the starting point and primary focus of His work. God always takes the initiative when relating to men, because we cannot. He always relates to men on the basis of who He is rather than who they are. This is the principle of grace. The issue of Israel in the Scriptures is all about the character and of God. We cannot afford to lose sight of God’s sovereignty in His choosing Israel and the Jewish people, nor make this relationship primarily about them rather than Him.
It’s about His Glory
It is important to understand that God desires to bring Himself glory in the world, and this forms part of His motivation in every action He performs. (This does not mean that love, mercy, holiness, and the other characteristics of the Person of God are not also present in His actions, only that a desire for His personal glory is always present). Since God desires that all men know Him, His character must be displayed in dramatic visible ways. It is evident in His work of creation, the stars declaring the praises of God (Ps. 19:1), in the sending of His Son (John 17:1, 5), and in His action of saving people (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). The same is true in His dealing with the nation of Israel. Ezekiel chapter 36 speaks clearly of the return and re-establishment of the nation of Israel, and God clarifies His motives for doing this, “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake” (Ezek. 36:22), that is, His reputation and glory. God is working in Israel for His own purpose and glory, demonstrating powerfully before the nations that He is faithful to His promises (Ps. 105:8–11); He is able to fulfill His Word. If the issue of Israel is this important for God, it should be for us as well.
It’s about Salvation
God used Israel to bring salvation to the world. All the major biblical characters, the people God used in His plan for salvation, were all of the people of Israel. Moses, David, all the prophets; basically, all the heroes of the faith came from Israel. Jesus (Yeshua), the Man Christians know as Messiah, was and is Jewish. All the apostles were Jewish. All the books of the Bible (save Luke and Acts) were written by Jews. The 120 people in the upper room on the day of Pentecost were Jews. The entire early church was Jewish. It was only later, under the ministry of Paul, a Jew, that the Gospel was taken in a substantial manner to the Gentile nations. As a person who is of European descent, I have to acknowledge that while God was dealing with Israel (and had been dealing with them for thousands of years), my ancestors were pagans, worshipping creation rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:20–25). God chose Israel to reveal Himself to the world, and if it wasn’t for Him choosing and using them, we would still be in this same desperate situation, without hope in the world (Eph. 2:12). The same is true for every nation and people on earth. God used Israel to bring salvation to the world. We see in this the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that, “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3).
It’s about Our Identity
The issue of Israel is about our identity as believers. While the center and root of our Christian identity will always be found in Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMashiach), the Scriptures teach us that we have become a part of redemptive history that precedes His work, which began with Abraham. In Romans chapters 9 to 11 Paul says that Gentile believers in Yeshua HaMashiach have been grafted into Israel, or, using his analogy, we as wild olive shoots have been grafted into the cultivated olive tree of Israel (Rom. 11:15—25). This olive tree has been cultivated by God, over millennia, by the following (Rom. 9:4—5):
- “the adoption,” the fact that God entered into relationship with them, choosing them to be His special people
- “the glory,” the wonder of being chosen by God to be His special people, out of all the earth
- “the covenants,” those solemn promises which define the nature of the relationship between God and Israel
- “the giving of the law,” which Paul describes as holy, just and good (Rom. 7:12), a revelation of the character of God, who is holy, just and good
- “the service of God,” that Israel was called to be a priestly nation in service of the God of heaven
- “the promises,” which God made to Israel
- “of whom are the fathers,” the fact that all the heroes of the faith were of the house of Israel, including the patriarchs, the fathers whom God loves (Deut. 10:15)
- “and from whom, according to the flesh, Messiah came,” that God used Israel to birth Yeshua into the world.
God has, by His grace, grafted Gentiles, who were outside the promises and without hope in the world (Eph. 2:12), into this rich heritage by faith in His Son, Yeshua HaMashiach. This rich heritage should therefore form part of our identity as believers.
It’s about World Redemption
We live in a day and age in which more prophecies are being fulfilled than any other time in history except for the first coming of Yeshua HaMashiach. These prophecies are focused around the re-establishment of the nation of Israel. These events, which were long foretold by the prophets and recorded in Scripture, are unfolding in our day and age. What do we mean? Let’s look at a basic outline of prophetic events:
- Isaiah 66:7—10 spoke of the birth of the nation of Israel in a day. This happened in 1948, the first time Israel was a sovereign nation since the exile to Babylon in 586 BC.
- Many prophecies speak of the return of the Jews from the four corners of the earth (Jer. 32:37–41; Ezek. 20:34, 34:13, 36:24; Zech. 8:7–8). Since the nineteenth century, millions of Jews have returned home to the land of Israel.
- Yeshua said in Luke 21:24 that Jerusalem would be trampled by the Gentiles. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70 and AD 135, and came under Gentile control. This agonized the heart of the Jewish people who have always viewed Jerusalem as their spiritual home. However, thankfully, this was not the end of the story, for Yeshua added, “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” In 1967, during the Six Day War, east Jerusalem was recaptured and came under full sovereignty of the Jewish people for the first time in 2,600 years (Also see Zech. 8:7–8).
What does the fulfillment of these prophecies mean? Yeshua clearly linked these events to His imminent return (Luke 21:27–32). It is therefore an exciting time in which to live, for we are seeing the unfolding of prophetic events long foretold by God and recorded in His Word. God is fulfilling His Word and we are alive to see it.
It’s about you
The issue of Israel affects you. If we love God, then we should love what He loves. If He loves Israel, so should we. If God longs to see Himself glorified in Israel, so should we. If God is working in Israel, which He clearly is, so should we. Loving and supporting Israel isn’t primarily about Israel; it is primarily about loving what God loves, because we love Him. It is about choosing to embrace for ourselves what He has embraced for Himself out of our devotion to Him. We serve God by serving His plan and purpose for Israel.
Secondly, we need to understand that we are indebted to Israel (Rom. 15:27). God used Israel to show His great mercy to us. Perhaps we should be involved in showing them the same kindness we have been shown through them?
Lastly, understanding what God is doing in Israel (see the section, “It’s About World Redemption”) is about understanding the nature of the day in which we live. The New Testament clearly describes the signs of the times that will precede the coming of Messiah. These signs are most clearly seen when looking at Israel. We are not saying this will happen in the next 10 years, next 50 years or even our lifetime. We are merely pointing to the signs of the times. We need to hear the words of Yeshua:
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34).
Let’s shake off the cares of this world and pursue God with the passion and zeal that He deserves. Let’s be zealous for Him. Let’s be zealous for what He is zealous for.