All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?” Mark Twain
Israel has a unique way of pretty much staying in the evening news month after month unlike most any other nation. This will probably never end until the Prince of Peace returns. Few if any nations have ever had so many passionate lovers and passionate haters. This article is mainly for those in between.
For most of my 59 years I have been an active member of a church somewhere in the world. I don’t remember any of the pastors of those congregations speaking much about Israel. I did not grow up with Jewish friends. When I began to discover the wider world out there around the age of 20, I was increasingly drawn to the Chinese, not the Jews in the Bay Area of CA. Most of my 20’s and 30’s was given to preparation to minister to the Chinese and then finally moving to Hong Kong to fulfill our calling. My first two trips overseas after becoming the pastor of the Los Osos Christian Fellowship over 21 years ago was to Hong Kong and China.
All of this to say I have no natural reason to give a flip about Israel or the Jews. But I developed a habit in my 20th year of reading the Bible through in a year, and have done that every year pretty much since. Over these almost 40 years, God’s heart for and commitment to His chosen people Israel has slowly but surely caught my attention.
My objective in this article is just to share for those who might be interested why I believe God still has plans and purposes in His huge heart for Israel, and why I believe He has not broken His covenant with them. If He has not broken His covenant with them, and still intends to fulfill His promises to them and even through them, then for those of us who want to know and please Him, it would behoove us to learn to feel like He feels about Israel.
So for starters, one of the truths I eventually discovered is that though some believers believe the church is the “New Israel” there is no verse or passage that states this. In the New Testament there are 77 occurrences of the word “church”; and 73 of the word “Israel”. I would encourage you to read through every one of these carefully on your own. But in the meantime you will have to take my word for it that there is no direct or even indirect reference in any of the 77 passages where the word church appears in the N.T. that equates it with Israel or states that it is the New Israel or has taken the place of Israel. Of the 73 references to Israel in the N.T., there is not one verse that directly or indirectly equates it with the church, or says the church is the New Israel.
Second, some say and teach that while God offered a potentially eternal covenant to Israel, she grossly and repeatedly broke its terms, hardened her heart, and rebelled against His rule and reign, and thus He eventually broke His covenant with Israel. And now because of their disobedience, they are just like any other nation in His eyes. Frankly if I were God I probably would have broken it with them. But God is not like me. Nor is He like you. And He repeatedly promises He will never do this to them. Let me share a few of these promises with you:
“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” Says the Lord who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10
“Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The Lord of hosts is His name: If this fixed order departs from before Me,” declares the Lord, Then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever.” Jeremiah 31:35-37
“Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of his possession? He does not retain his anger forever, Because He delights in unchanging love. he will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, you will cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob And unchanging love to Abraham, Which You swore to our forefathers From the days of old.” Micah 7:18-20. (In no way does this mean that He will not righteously deal with their disobedience and rebellion, which He has faithfully done through the centuries).
Many non Jewish commentators over the last two centuries have marveled over Israel’s and the Jews’ resilience amidst so much hatred and violence from surrounding nations. I believe one of the reasons for their amazing resilience is these wonderful promises of God. For those of us who are ever more fervently praying for a mighty move of God in Israel – it is promises like these that fuel our prayers and help us believe God for the seemingly impossible.
And that brings me to a few words about Romans chps. 9-11. Paul – the apostle to the Gentiles, though he never stopped ministering to Jews – is writing this letter to the church in Rome, which was predominately Gentile. Paul said of the faith of this young, but fast growing church that it “… is being proclaimed throughout the whole world” (1:8). I believe Paul knew they were going to be tempted to begin to think that they were the whole enchilada, that they were the “new thing” God is doing, and that Israel was left in the dust, with God wiping His disgusted hands. So while he made very clear in this long letter that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (3:23) and that no one comes to God but through faith and trust in Christ’s atoning work on the cross (3:21-26), which of course includes Jews/Israel, he then spends 3 chapters (9-11) making sure that these Gentile believers know:
1. that Paul has a deep deep burden for His “kinsmen” (9:1-3; 10:1);
2. Great blessing and spiritual riches have come to us through Israel (9:4,5);
3. God has NOT rejected His chosen people Israel (11:1);
4. We Gentile believers must beware of arrogance towards them (11:18, 20, 25);
5. God’s calling on Israel to be one of His instruments of worldwide revival before Jesus returns is still on (Rom. 11: 12, 15 & see Zechariah 8:13, 23).
Well I think this has surpassed the conventional blog wisdom of length, so I’m going to stop for now. May the Lord give all of us His heart for this people that He sovereignly chose and that He passionately loves. And may we courageously stand up for them in this day when more and more are turning against them.