Discerning God's purposes for Israel
In Romans 9–11, the apostle Paul deals extensively with the gentile Christian’s response to Israel. While the passage has been debated by the best theological minds through the centuries, Paul still exhorts us to accept certain clear facts. The failure of the church historically to do this sadly has allowed anti-Semitism to grow and flourish in many churches and traditions. We should examine these again in light of the following:
- The God of the Bible has never “cast away His people” (Romans 11:1). This means He has a redemptive plan for national Israel. He has not forgotten them and has a surprise in store for all of us. Just as Elijah thought that all was lost and hopeless, so even today the Lord is allowing a remarkable miracle to unfold in Israel. He is more than active in Israel’s present journey.
- God has used Israel’s unbelief to bring salvation to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11). This has an element of mystery in it, yet the passage is clear that there is a Church in the world because of Israel’s rejection of Jesus. Paul encourages us to view this fact with gratitude and not disdain. Their fall, he says, “is riches for the world.” The church should have shown kindness and appreciation to Israel—that is, we should have been a provocation to jealousy.
- God requires that we desist from arrogantly boasting against the Jewish people because we have been grafted into their spiritual tree (Romans 11:17–19)—that is, our spiritual heritage is Jewish. Jesus said, “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Ours is essentially a Jewish faith built on the great lives of Moses, Joshua, Esther, David, Isaiah, Daniel, the apostles, and our wonderful Messiah Jesus.
- God calls us to fear Him—to show reverence and awe (Romans11:19–20). The Jewish world can easily be grafted back into their tree because they are “natural branches,” whereas we are “wild branches”—that is, we are in a way misfits, and it is easier for God to graft His people back into their own tree than to place us there. We should therefore fear God and thank Him by showing love to the Jewish people. Our arrogance against them incurs His displeasure, and He warns that this can lead to spiritual death (Romans 11:21–22).
- God calls us to embrace mystery (Romans 11:25–26). There is a glorious future for Israel—that is, her failure is only partial, and one day, all Israel will be saved. Her journey is fully bound up in the sovereign plan of God. His ways are past finding out, but they are clear to the extent that out of Zion a deliverer will come and bring great blessing to Israel. This vision of Israel’s future will not fail. There is thus an “irrevocable” national destiny for Israel that began with Abraham and will conclude with the Holy Spirit being poured out upon them (Romans 11:29).
All this means that God has not forgotten Israel, and we should be a people filled with love and gratitude as we engage them. Though centuries of Christian anti-Semitism heap shame upon us, it is true that in recent decades, a revolution in Jewish/Christian relations has taken place, with the ICEJ at the forefront.
Rev. Malcolm Hedding is the former Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
©2010 International Christian Embassy Jerusalem