I’ll never forget watching the Jewish people in Israel bring in the Sabbath at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Jewish families walked along smiling and laughing, greeting their friends and family with hugs. As the sun set, the crowds grew. Dancing and singing erupted. Boys were thrown on their fathers’ shoulders while singing, laughing, and dancing. The women sang beautiful songs that echoed off the walls. It was a scene I hope I never forget.
Bible-believing Christians may struggle to reconcile the Jewish people today worshiping the God of our Bible. When the nation of Israel rejected their Messiah, did God move on to only work in and through His church to fulfill His plan of redemption? Is God still the God of Israel?
God’s Eternal Covenant With Abraham
We should always look for answers in Scripture. The answer comes down to how forever God’s covenant with Abraham is. When you enter a covenant, you partner with someone to meet a goal. If one partner does not hold his or her end of the covenant, it can break.
In Genesis 15 God and Abraham made an odd transaction. After Abraham (then called Abram) met the mysterious Melchizedek, king of Salem, God said to Abraham, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” (Genesis 15:1).
God had already told him he would be a father of a great nation (12:1–3). But how would this be since he did not have an heir or land? God promised him an heir in Genesis 15, saying, “‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be’” (15:5).
God then promised Abraham a specific land by doing something that seems strange today. He commanded Abraham, “‘Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’ Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two” (v. 9). God put Abraham to sleep and walked between the cut animals by Himself.
The covenant remains eternal because a perfect God made it with Himself on behalf of the father of Israel.
In ancient times, cutting animals and having both parties walk between them sealed a covenant. So why did God put Abraham to sleep and go through alone? Because the partnership God made to give Abraham all He promised was made with Himself. God knew sinful people could not keep their end of the covenant, so He made the covenant with Himself. No doubt, God has always given this Promised Nation consequences for disobedience. Still, the covenant remains eternal because a perfect God made it with Himself on behalf of the father of Israel. It is impossible for God to break a covenant.
Is the Church the New Israel?
Only 50 years after the last book of the Bible was written, church leaders began to reject Israel’s everlasting covenant and give the church the role of spiritual Israel. To be clear, when the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, many in the early church did not consider themselves a separate religion but a continuation of Judaism. Today we are privileged to have the entire Old and New Testaments to see the beautiful picture of God’s redemption plan from Genesis through Revelation. We are not a continuation of Israel but a separate chosen people, the church.
The unity of Scripture shows a story of planned redemption. God did not move to Plan B when Adam and Eve disobeyed and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God did not change course when Israel rejected their brother and Messiah, Jesus. God always planned to send Jesus as a sacrificial Lamb to His own to save them from their sins in His First Coming. God also plans to send Jesus again as a Warrior King (Revelation 19:11–16). And He always planned for the church to be born out of Israel’s rejection of its Messiah (Romans 11:25).
Romans 11 should humble us as believers in Jesus, especially if we are not Jewish. We have the gospel because of Israel’s rejection! This beautiful and tragic reality should bring us to worship our good, sovereign Father.
Even though they rejected Him, God still remembers Israel. Newer generations in the church often miss the miracle of modern Israel. When The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry was formed in 1938, there was no modern State of Israel! But godly men and women knew God would fulfill prophecies like Isaiah 11:10–16 and “gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (v. 12). After 2,000 years, Chosen People from all over the earth returned to their homeland and renewed a dead language: Hebrew. This modern miracle is rooted in the covenant God made with Himself in Genesis 15.
Who Is God Today?
So, if Israel is part of God’s plan, are they worshiping the same God as believers in Jesus? We know there has been a hardening of hearts so that the gospel could come to the Gentiles (Romans 11). And we know that before Jesus returns, many Jewish people’s eyes will be unveiled and will see that Jesus is the true Messiah. In God’s providence and sovereignty He has kept those Jewish people as a remnant.
We all need a Savior to do what we could never do on our own: be the perfect sacrifice—the payment for our sins—through death.
We also know that salvation is an individual responsibility: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). No one has a distinction or head start—“all” means all. Works never give us right standing with the Father. We all need a Savior to do what we could never do on our own: be the perfect sacrifice—the payment for our sins—through death. Only God can do this act, and He did so through the saving work of Jesus. Praise God He did not harden each individual’s heart! So we must go and tell the Good News of the gospel to everyone because we don’t know who the Holy Spirit chooses to breathe life into.
God is still at work in the Jewish people just as He has always been. In this Church Age, we must pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6), stand firm knowing the plan of redemption is being worked out just as Scripture has said, share the life-saving Good News of the gospel with everyone, and understand the God of Israel is the same unchanging God we love and serve today.