It’s not about Israel. It’s about the World.

One cannot deny the prominence of “Israel” when we speak about monotheism. Among the many people on earth during the early bronze age [1], God chose Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). Among the many nations on earth, God chose Israel (Deuteronomy 7:7-9). It is this apparent ‘election’ of the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – that made many people wonder if God was unjust. And reflecting on the ignorance of my past, I too fall into that category and almost departed from the faith.

“Was God Fair?”

I have asked this question many times. I have also heard many people asking the same question. Why can’t God make Himself known to the world? Why did He choose Israel? Why not China or elsewhere?

For the longest of time, I pondered over this question. Then one day, when I was reflecting on Romans 11, on the segment where Paul explained the partial hardening of Israel (ref: Romans 11:25) that it dawned on me that we have got the entire focus wrong. When contemplating on this question, we are too caught up with the subject (Israel) that we forgot the sovereignty of the One who is orchestrating history.

“When Jesus taught of salvation, He intended it for all nations.”

Surely, God is fair. When Jesus taught of salvation, He intended it for “all nations” (Matthew 28:19, NIV). So, why Israel?

The Duty of Israel

Understanding the duty of Israel takes us back to the call of Abraham. When God called Abraham, part of the blessing includes being a blessing to other nations (Genesis 12:2). The call was to “direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what He has promised him” (Genesis 18:19, NIV). In other words, God called Abraham to “keep the way of the Lord” in order for God to fulfil His promises to Abraham as well as to enable him to be a blessing to other nations (Genesis 18:18). It is here that God reasoned within Himself whether or not to hide from Abraham about the impending judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-17).

On this note, the mediating nature of Israel’s duty through Abraham took shape. God called Abraham to be a great nation; a nation that will be a blessing to others. The Abrahamic nation will mediate for the world (starting with Sodom and Gomorrah), and for Abraham’s sake, the nations that Israel mediated for will be blessed.

The Abrahamic nation will mediate for the world, and for Abraham’s sake, the nations that Israel mediated for will be blessed.

God’s covenant with the Patriarch of the Bible set the stage for the story of salvation through Israel. On this note, it is important to note that “salvation” refers to the reconciliation of the world to God (2 Corinthians 5:19). In the Old Testament, this reconciliation is to partake in the promises of the Abrahamic covenant. In the New Testament, this reconciliation is a reconciliation to God by faith through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Some examples of Gentiles who were blessed through Israel before the birth of Christ

The first gentiles to be recognized as partakers of God’s covenant are the slaves in the Abrahamic tribe when they gave themselves to be circumcised (Genesis 17:12-13).

The nation of Abimelek was spared from destruction because Abimelek took Sarah not knowing she was Abraham’s wife. In Biblical accounts, Abimelek recognized God as “Lord” (Genesis 20:3-4) and God healed him (Genesis 20:17-18).

During the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, Egyptians who feared the Lord obeyed the words of Moses and was kept from the disaster intended for unbelieving Egyptians (Exodus 9:20). It is unsure if the “many other people” (Exodus 12:38, NIV) who went out of Egypt were the same group of Egyptians who feared the Lord, but it is certain that they were Gentiles.

“During the time of Esther, many people of other nationalities became Jews.”

Multiple Gentile nations recognized the Lord as God and followed David while the heart of Israel was with Absalom who was against David (2 Samuel 15:21, NIV).

And during the time of Esther, “many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them” (Esther 8:17, NIV).

Piecing the Puzzle Together

When we compile God’s sovereign intention for the world, we come to realize that the story of the gospel, though focuses a lot on Israel, isn’t truly centred on Israel. Rather, it is God’s chosen method of communication with the world through Israel.

If God did not include Abraham in the decision about the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, history would have taken a rather radical twist. Israel was called to mediate for the unbelieving world and to make God known to them.

“Being a Jew does not necessarily mean being a natural descendant of Abraham. A Jew is a person who believes in God and is circumcised in the heart by the Holy Spirit.”

Gentiles who have encounters with God and wishes to partake in the amazing relationship Israel had with God can “become Jews” as long as they believed. Being a Jew does not necessarily mean being a natural descendant of Abraham. A Jew is a person who believes in God and is circumcised in the heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 2:29, NIV).

So, who are the People of Israel?

With all that was said, it is clear that it is in God’s every intention to reconcile the world to Him. Hence, the people of Israel refers to the people who partake in the covenantal promise of God. These people are the true worshippers of God who partakes in the promises of God through the reconciliation ministry of Christ. They are people who “became Jews”. They are people who stand with God and proclaim that they partake of God’s promises, calling fellow brothers and sisters within the covenant as “my people”, and the God of these people as “my God” (Ruth 1:16, NIV).

 

Contradictions in the Bible?

Coming back to Romans 11 where Paul speak of the partial hardening of Israel (Romans 11:25), Paul refers to the people who proclaim to be Jews but are unable to accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah. They are Jews who “keep the way of the Lord” (Genesis 18:19, NIV) and sought to obtain righteousness through the keeping of the law (Romans 10:3). They failed to realize that Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for all who believes (Romans 10:4, NIV).

This failure to understand mirrors Israel’s disbelief in God even before they enter the land of Canaan. They have seen great signs and wonders, and have experienced miraculous preservation of their daily necessities – shirts and shoes, but they still did not understand the wondrous works of God (Deuteronomy 29:4).

“If God has singled them out from Israel for disasters, then they will not be counted as partakers of the promises of God till they are grafted in again.”

Before entering into Canaan, Moses explicitly mentions that if someone feels safe despite persisting in doing things their own way, God will not forgive them and His wrath will burn against them (Deuteronomy 29:19-21). In the same way, though they knew that the law will not make them righteous before God, they chose not to accept the One who God sent to them for the purpose of reconciliation. And if God has singled them out from Israel for disaster (Deuteronomy 29:21, NIV) to be broken off (Romans 11:20, NIV), then they will not be counted as partakers of the promises of God till they are grafted in again (Romans 11:23, NIV).

Is it right to Associate “Biblical Israel” with the “State of Israel”?

On this note, it is important to note the difference between the “State of Israel” and the “Israel” of the Bible. The “State of Israel” that we now know is formed by the Zionist movement that was founded on the goal of establishing a “Jewish nation-state” in the region of Palestine [2]. The current make-up of the State of Israel comprises of more than 5 religions with “Judaism” forming the majority [3].

Despite its seemingly atheist and secular origins, the State of Israel is becoming increasingly “Jewish” religiously [4]. And on the 19th of July 2018, the State of Israel passes a controversial bill that describes the State of Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” [5]. With a swipe of the pen, non-religious-Jews were degraded and became “second class citizens” along with other languages other than Hebrew [6].

The pressure to convert the State of Israel into a religiously-Jewish nation is real, and it is institutionalizing racism at the state level. This contradicts the teachings of Biblical Israel who are true partakers of God’s promises.

“It is wrong to associate Biblical Israel with the State of Israel.”

The Bible teaches us that partakers of God’s promises “become Jews” on their own accord and should not be institutionalized. The passing of the controversial Jewish nation-state bill also assumes the superiority of the religiously-Jews above all other ethnic groups, worsening the social tension within the State. Given all the differences in beliefs and the political motivations that the State of Israel is doing, it is wrong to associate “Biblical Israel” with the “State of Israel”.

The Real Israel

It is on this note that I conclude that we, as believers of Christ, are Israel. We are partakers of the promises of God through Christ. We are the “wild olives shoots” that now share in the nourishing sap of Christ (Romans 11:17, NIV). And we are all around the world in different forms.

When the people who God foreknew met us, they are led to believe in God and His promises. Through this, we “become Jews” and we all partake in the circumcision of the heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 2:29, NIV). And God is doing all these because of the world that He created to be with in the first place.

“God did not choose the State of Israel. God chose the World. Biblical Israel, along with the real Israel are messengers and  mediators for the world, bringing the message of reconciliation to the ends of the world.”

God did not choose the State of Israel. God chose the World. Biblical Israel was chosen to be a messenger, a blessing, and a medium for the birth of Christ. The real Israel now acts as an ambassador with God’s message of reconciliation. It is this Israel that will mediate for the world, and bring the message reconciliation to the ends of the world.

We partake in God’s promises and His inheritance. Will you join us?

 

References:

[1] – McClellan, M. (2012). Abraham and the Chronology of Ancient Mesopotamia. Retrieved from https://answersingenesis.org/bible-timeline/abraham-and-the-chronology-of-ancient-mesopotamia/

[2] – Zionism (2016). Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Zionism

[3] – Religion in Israel (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Israel

[4] – Livni, R. (2017). Three Reasons Israelis Stopped Being Secular. Retrieved from https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-three-reasons-israelis-stopped-being-secular-1.5480059

[5] – Jewish National State: Israel approves controversial bill. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-44881554

[6] – Karkouti, M. (2018). Arabs are now officially second-class citizens. Retrieved from https://gulfnews.com/opinion/thinkers/arabs-are-now-officially-second-class-citizens-1.2256357

Picture taken from Pixabay

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