How Should Christians Relate to Israel?
Israel The Nation and The People
Israel is the nation and people chosen by God to reveal His redemption plan (Romans 9:4). God promised the nations would be blessed through the offspring of Abraham (Genesis 22:18) and would give the promised land to the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 35:12). Their offspring eventually became the nation of Israel.
God had made a covenant with the people of Israel. When they worship and obey God, God will bless them abundantly in the promised land. When they worship idols, God will cast them out of the land (Deuteronomy 28:64). During the reign of King Solomon, Israel started to worship idols, God was patient and had mercy on them for over two hundred years. Finally, in 722BC, the northern Kingdom was defeated by the Assyrians and the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom were exiled from the promised land. And then in 586BC, the three tribes of the southern Kingdom were exiled by Babylonian from the promised land.
70 years later, as prophesized by prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:11-12), some of the three tribes returned back to the promised land. These three tribes are Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites (Ezra 2). Because of the Judah majority, they are collectively known as Jews throughout the centuries. That is true in Jesus time, all the way to the 21 century.
Jesus the Messiah
The offspring of Abraham is a reference to the nation and people of Israel. In a spiritual sense, a reference to Christ (Galatian 3:16). When Christ came to this earth, except a small number of faithful disciples, the Jews, in general, has rejected Jesus as the Messiah, and continued for two thousand years (Romans 9:30-33). As a result, the temple was destroyed as prophesied by the Lord Jesus (Matthew 24:2), and the Jews were scattered around the world.
All the laws point to Jesus the Messiah (Romans 10:4). Everyone, including Jews who call on the name of Jesus, will be saved (Romans 10:13). Paul tells us although the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved. (Romans 9:27).
However, God has not forgotten His promises to their forefathers. In the last one hundred years, God has been gathering the Israelites back to the promised land, just as He has promised to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 30:3-4).
When Jesus the Messiah returns to the earth in the future, the majority of the Israelites who are alive at that time will believe Jesus is the Messiah and will be saved (Romans 11:26).
Israelites and Christians
It is God’s will for the Israelites who were redeemed from Egypt to enter the promised land. The Israelites must trust God in order to have victory over their enemies on the way to the promised land. They would have victory and rest in God if they trusted the Lord to enter the land (Hebrew 3:19). The author of Hebrew urged Christian to strive to enter that rest (Hebrew 4:11). The history of the Israelites was a shadow, it was written down for new testament believers, to warn us not to follow their failure (1 Corinthians 10:11), and to encourage us to follow their faithfulness in God (Hebrew 12).
The Promised Land
The rest in the promised land is a type that refers to the rest in Christ, for the Lord Jesus said:
“take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30).
The promised land is truly an abundant land, for the Lord said:
“For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills,a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.” (Deuteronomy 8:7-10)
In the promised land, God’s people will lack nothing. The promised land is a type of Christ. Studying the land will equip us to have a fuller understanding of the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8). To treasure, enjoy, experience and reveal the fullness of Christ, is God’s Eternal Purpose for His redeemed people:
“so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19).
How Should Christians Treat Jews?
In 2018, there are 8.5 million people who live in Israel. 6.5 million of them are Jews, only approximately 20,000 of them are followers of Jesus the Messiah, that is less than 0.3% of the Jews population.
However, Christians should not be arrogant towards Jews, because God has chosen Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the root, and the Gentiles were grafted in and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, it is the root that supports us, not us who support the root (Romans 11:17-18).
Over the centuries, Jews experienced much persecution from various people, including persecution from Christians. The persecution was partly due to some writings of the church’s teachers. Reformer Martin Luther was infamous for using very harshed and strong languages against the Jews in his treatise titled “On the Jews and Their Detestable Lies.”. As a result, Jews and Christians relationships have been very tense for centuries.
Christians should pray that the Jews will get to know the Lord Jesus as Messiah. We need to understand their role in God’s eternal plan of salvation and their history for the last two thousand years. We ought to be sensitive to their feelings and be compassionate to show the love of Christ towards them, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8). If their failure to believe in Jesus means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! (Romans 11:11-12)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with your spirit, Amen.