The last chapter of my forthcoming book is titled “Tying up the loose ends”. Here I discuss “Israel”.
A good deal of this book is about ancient Israel and an Israel in a time that is yet to come. The Bible closes with Israel under Roman occupation, the last big event being the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. Following this was occupation by the Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamluks, Ottomans, and the British. It was not until 1948, the modern state of Israel was formed, which was a fulfilment of the Balfour declaration in 1917 and, for the first time since the Babylonian exile, the Jewish people, had autonomous control over some of the land that had been promised to Abraham. Since 1948, there have been several wars (all of which Israel have won) and conflicts over the land and, while Israel has managed to maintain sovereignty over the land given to it and even gain new territory, there are many formidable powers at work that would seek to bring about its demise.
The Palestinian question and allowing them self-government over some of that land remains a huge one that has occupied many a great and well-meaning mind. One area of contention is the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians; another is Israel’s security. Despite many a peace plan having been hatched and attempted, a fully satisfactory solution for all parties has not been managed. The return of the Jews in any great number to Israel is a modern occurrence, although many still remain scattered around the world. Few Jews believe in Jesus as their Messiah. The history of the Jewish people since the Exile has seen them, in the main, seeking to live peacefully with their hosts, and often prospering, while maintaining their distinctiveness. History has also seen many atrocities being perpetrated toward the Jews. Anti-Semitism has always been an issue and still is.
Much more could be said about modern Israel, which is never far from the news. As interesting as that subject is, we don’t want to stray too far from the subject of this book or enter into avoidable controversy, given among sound Christians there are big differences in opinions. It is quite likely only a minority believe there remains a special purpose for Israel in God’s plans. Even without the benefit of biblical hindsight, it is quite clear that Israel continues to play an important and pivotal role on the world stage, including in numerous ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. One senses with the benefit of hindsight, there will be much more. The following are, in my opinion, some of the more important points to consider:
- Israel and the Church are distinct, although one can be a Jew and belong to the Church. The Church has not replaced Israel. Faith and obedience and the principles of saving grace govern them all.
- While a special covenant (like a marriage) has been made with both Israel and the Church, the merging and culmination of which is in the future.
- The promise made to Abraham that through his descendant Jacob (Israel), would arise a great nation, has not been revoked.
- It was always God’s intention, through Israel, the world will be blessed.
- The preservation of the nation of Israel and re-emergence of its homeland, might be regarded as miraculous but also is Israel’s divine destiny.
- There are many biblical prophecies yet to be fulfilled relating to Israel, both regarding the land and its people.
- There is a small number of Jews who have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah. There will be a future turning to Him by a large section of them.
- There will be days of great blessing for Jews, but preceded by suffering.
- God holds nations accountable for their mistreatment of Jews, of which there have been many instances. He will bless those who bless the Jews.
- The fact that one third (six million) of the Jewish people were exterminated during the Nazi era (1933-1945) must never be forgotten.
- Some of Israel’s woes are as a result of its disobedience and rebellion and this may also be a means used by God to bring Israel to repentance.
- Looking at history, while some Christians have acted sympathetically toward Jews, others haven’t and this must be a cause of deep regret.
- There will be a millennial age under the rule of Israel’s Messiah, which will be a golden age. The babe of Bethlehem will reign in Jerusalem.
- Proclaiming the gospel to the Jew (first) and then the Gentiles, is a matter of primary importance and we should not ignore the need to do so.
- While the Church should seek ways to effectively proclaim the gospel of repentance and of the grace of God toward the Jews, it should at the same time be offering friendship and providing support wherever it can.
- We should uphold the need for social justice toward the Arab. Sadly, due to complexities, politics, prejudices, antagonism, it remains a challenge.
- While some Christians are as much a Zionist as the most ardent of those who are Jewish, many see no place for the Jews in God’s plans today.
- As far as the scriptures are concerned, peace and prosperity and other blessings in the land are linked to national repentance.
- Some Christians see Israel as doing no wrong and others see them as doing no right. The truth (as it often is) lies somewhere in-between.
- The development of Israel to become an advanced technological state with incredibly talented people, from humble beginnings, is truly amazing.
- With few exceptions, Israel’s closest neighbours are not particularly well disposed and sometimes hostile to the existence of the State of Israel.
- The “Palestinian question” has long occupied great and noble minds but is an important one that ought not be ignored or dealt with prejudicially.
- The Jewish people retain a special place in God’s heart and purposes.
“And so all Israel shall be saved … There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” Romans 11:26,27