Everyone seems to have a view on Israel and, by implication, the Jewish people. Generally speaking, voiced opinions are either for or against this fledgling nation with few in a neutral category. With the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, it seems this dichotomy has been strengthened with old animosities and ancient hatreds spewing onto the streets of Israel and in major cities around the world. And, as if just waiting for such an event, the prejudice of the Western media and some in left-leaning and Islamic governments ramped up their strong condemnation (only of Israel) within the first 24 hours.
Everyone has a view! But, what about you and me? As Christians, where do we stand, not just in times of open conflict and pain for Arabs and Jews, but as worshipers of the God of Israel?
While men hold personal opinions, the church must be careful not to miss the most important view of all—what God says about the Jewish people.
Some folks (even some Christians it seems) view Jewish people by what they are told in the media, both “professional” and social. Some are influenced by stories of an “ancient Palestinian people” driven out of their ancestral lands by “occupying” hordes of Jews who are trying to “destroy” Arab and Islamic culture. Some have simply accepted flawed doctrine which teaches that God is finished with the Jews who have been replaced in God’s purposes by what they call “Spiritual Israel” or “New Israel” (aka the church). While men hold personal opinions, the church must be careful not to miss the most important view of all—what God says about the Jewish people.
God’s Plans for Israel
When one takes a literal hermeneutic (system of interpretation) rather than an allegorical or spiritualised hermeneutic, God’s purposes and plans for Israel are abundantly clear. Take for example God’s promise of a coming day, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (in other words, all of the nation of the Jews) and, “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jeremiah 31:31–34). This accords with His promises in other Scriptures as well, but in this very passage the next thing God says is a powerful reminder that He has certainly not finished with the Jews. Just read verses 35–37. In these verses, against the background of God having provided “the sun for a light by day,” and “the moon and the stars for a light by night,” the Lord promises that if they stop doing what He set them in the heavens to do, only then would “the seed of Israel…also cease from being a nation before (Him) forever.” And, as if to drive the message home, God uses hyperbolic language saying, “If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel.” In other words, it’s not going to happen!
Someone might counter that this is prophecy from the Old Testament, and therefore, for some oblique reason, is not to be taken at face value. While I would strenuously disagree with such a sentiment, this same determination of God towards Israel’s preservation is clearly spelled out in the New Testament by the apostle Paul. Some 25 years after the crucifixion of Christ and with more than ample time to consider the implications of the Jews’ rejection of Jesus, Paul preemptively asks the question that many a theologian would ask down through the ages, “Has God cast away His people?” (Romans 11:1) His answer is not just negative, but in the Greek language of the day it was a very strong negative. In modern day English, we might say, “No way!” or “Absolutely not!” He reiterates this idea in verse 11, asking again, “Have they stumbled [erred or failed] that they should fall?” Again, his answer is the same: No way! Absolutely not!
Israel and the End Times
Not only is God not finished with Israel, but He is actively positioning the Jews for the events of the last days. It is imperative for the Jews to be in the Land of Israel so that numerous prophecies can be fulfilled. Among them, for example, the building of a third temple (to fulfill Daniel 9:27; 12:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4; Matthew 24:15), attack from the armies of Gog of Magog (Ezekiel 38) and of the armies gathered at Armageddon (Revelation 16:14–16; Zechariah 9—10, 14:2), and the Second Coming of Messiah (Matthew 24:29–30; Zechariah 12:10; 14:3–5).
Not only is God not finished with Israel, but He is actively positioning the Jews for the events of the last days.
As part of God’s great plan, even at a time of judgment and the exile to Babylon, God revealed His long-term plans covering about two and a half millennia. Ezekiel 36:19 tells us that God Himself would eventually scatter the Jews “among the nations,” and that His subsequent plans for their future were not for their sake but for His “holy name’s sake” (v. 20). This is because God’s covenant promises were never based on Israel’s performance but on His unconditional promises to the patriarchs. (See Romans 11:28–29.) He then goes on to tell them exactly what He would do. “I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land” (Ezekiel 36:24). What an incredible promise and how amazing that this has been, and is being, fulfilled in the last several decades… in our day! Eventually it is God’s plan to bring spiritual regeneration to the Jews and to restore them to a right relationship with Himself (vv. 25–27). We look forward to that time. But, as a nation, Israel is not there yet!
The Gentile Response
So, how should Bible-believing Christians view the Jewish people theologically and personally right now? Let’s consider a number of points:
• We are NOT called to necessarily agree with all the decisions made by a secular government in Israel. Their right to be in the land biblically does not equate to unconsidered acceptance of every aspect of Israeli government or society.
• This being said, theologically, they are still the Chosen People of God whom He loves for the sake of the patriarchs. This is God’s sovereign choice, and He has plans for the Jewish people, which will lead to a regenerated holy nation in the Millennial Kingdom (Zechariah 8:22–23; Ezekiel 36:25–28).
We need to be careful to be among those who “bless Israel,” caring for them as a people because God cares for them.
• The unconditional covenant made with Abraham stands forever, including the promise to “bless those who bless you and… curse those who curse you” (Genesis 12:3). We need to be careful to be among those who “bless Israel,” caring for them as a people because God cares for them.
• Paul tells us that salvation has come “to the Gentiles [non-Jews] in order to provoke them to jealousy” (Romans 11:11). We have been greatly blessed by the God of Israel and we have accepted Israel’s Messiah as our Saviour and come into the blessing of the New Covenant. In turn, as we live by the Spirit and reflect the life of Christ, Jewish people who observe our genuine relationship with God will be “provoked to jealousy” that we have the type of relationship with the God of Israel that they have always longed for. As a result, they will be challenged to accept Yeshua as their own Messiah and Savior.
• Paul also reminds us not to be boastful or prideful against Jews because the blessings we have in Messiah did not originate with us but with the Jews as the Chosen People of God (Romans 11:18). The only difference between them and us at this time, is that we “stand by faith,” not by anything we have achieved in ourselves (v. 20). Paul adds, “Do not be haughty, but fear” (v. 20), reminding us we are certainly not to see ourselves as superior in any sense.
Everyone seems to have a view on Israel or Jewish people, but only those views which accord with God’s declared Word stand up to scrutiny. We are to draw nearer to Him, and as we do, we will love what He loves and pray for the redemption of the Jewish people, both now and in that future time when “all Israel will be saved” (v. 26).