Why DOES Israel Matter?

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Pull up a chair and hang out for a bit.  This week we are concluding our study, Why Israel Matters and we have covered lots of ground.  So, we’re pulling it all together this week.

Early in the study we discussed some reasons Israel matters.  Do you remember some of those reasons?  Let’s jog the memory.  Israel matters in many ways, including:

  • Socially.  The desire of Israelis to make the world a better place (tikkun olam) is demonstrated in the way they treat other nations.  Often first on scene for natural disasters around the world, a leader in helping third world nations provide food and water for their citizens and sending aid into places like Syria are common for the Jewish state.
  • Geopolitically.  Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, guaranteeing freedoms not possible in other lands in the region.  She is a city on a hill, shining brightly in a dark area.
  • Intellectually.  The “Innovation Nation” is a world leader in medical, agricultural and technological advancements.  The genius of that tiny country impacts the entire world.
  • Militarily.  The IDF (Israel Defense Force) is one of the world’s elite militaries.  Couple their innovation and technological prowess with the commitment of young men and women who clearly understand what they are fighting for and you have the most dominate military in the region.

We’ve discussed those and other reasons why Israel matters.  However, perhaps the most significant reason is because Israel was chosen by God to carry out a unique role in history.  In Genesis 12:3, God promises to bless Abraham and make him and his descendants a great nation.  Beyond that, He vowed that all the people of the earth will be blessed through Abraham.  That blessing is salvation, the greatest blessing ever conceived!

Our Father in heaven knew what it would take to implement that blessing, and it came in the form of a triumvirate of covenants, all of which must be in play in order to obtain salvation:

  • Abrahamic Covenant: the covenant of decision.  God decided before the foundations of the earth that He would devise a way that would allow every person to obtain the blessing of salvation.
  • Mosaic Covenant: the covenant of instruction.  Because the world failed (and still does) to see the need for salvation, God gave the law to Moses.  It’s purpose was to serve as a tutor, to show us our need for redemption.
  • New Covenant: the covenant of ability. God had to design a way in which we could enter into the blessing of the Abrahamic Covenant.  Thus, He sent His Son to die for our sins and resurrect to give us new life.  That is the essence of the New Covenant.

All matter, and all are essential.  Just like a 3-legged stool, if you remove any of the three, God’s blessing of salvation falls short!

To add excitement to the mix, the New Covenant has a reward!  One day, Jesus the King will return to earth to rule and reign in righteousness.  All Israel will have been saved during the tribulation and they, along with all believers in Jesus the Messiah will reign with Him during the Millennial Kingdom.  Here is how Revelation 19:11-16 describes that coming:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

At Jesus’ first coming, the Jews were looking for a conquering king…one who would save them from the oppression of Roman rule.  Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey was symbolic of a king coming in peace, thus they did not recognize Him as Messiah.  The next time He comes, He will be that conquering king, and they will surely recognize Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Hasten the day, Lord Jesus!

We’re not done, my friends, so come back tomorrow as we continue our study together.  See you then!

3 Conditions Needed to Bring the King Home

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What is required in order for Jesus to return?  Did you know it has to do with the Davidic Covenant…and that happens to be our topic of discussion this week?  If you missed yesterday’s lesson, I encourage you to scroll back to it before jumping into today’s lesson.

In Acts 1:6-8, the disciples were trying to understand what Jesus was teaching them about His return (and the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant).  Jesus taught them “kingdom lessons” when He told them it wasn’t for them to know, since the kingdom they knew about would be destroyed in less than 40 years.

Today, we might ask the same question: “Lord, when will you restore Your kingdom?”

To get to that answer, recall the 3 great covenants we studied last week (Abrahamic, Mosaic and New).  Those will culminate in one final great covenant: the Davidic Covenant.  But there are 3 conditions needed to bring King Jesus home and fulfill that last great covenant:

  1. Israel must be back in her land.
  2. Israel’s historical mission (vehicle of world redemption) must not fail.
  3. Israel’s destiny must be national, not just spiritual.

Israel must be back in her land.

Jesus foretold destruction and dispersion of the land and the people prior to His return (Mathew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21).  How could Jesus possibly rule if no one is there?  Scripture says the Jews will welcome Him home…not the Gentiles!  Yet, for years, Gentiles ruled over Jerusalem.  In fact, the battle still rages over control of the Holy City.  However, on May 14, 1948, Israel was reborn and is now back in her land!  That condition has been met almost before our very eyes!

Israel’s historical mission must not fail.

If Israel’s historical mission fails, then God is a liar!  That will never be!  When God told Abraham (Genesis 12:3) that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed, He was actually making Abraham and his physical descendants (Israel) the vehicle of world redemption!  That is the blessing He had in mind!

God has not changed His mind…He has not replaced Israel…Israel’s role has never changed.  God made a promise, and He intends to keep it!  He does, however, use their unbelief to achieve His purpose!  How so?

God loves Israel and wants to save her.  Not because they are “better,” but because He desires that none should perish.  But notice something:

  • The OT prophets were saved by looking forward to the cross in faith.  In that faith, they gave us the Scriptures!
  • We are saved by looking back to the cross in faith.  In Israel’s unbelief, God opened up a plan of salvation for the Gentiles.  (Check out Romans 11 if you need reference.)

Israel is fulfilling her historical mission.

Israel’s destiny must be national, not just spiritual.

The Abrahamic Covenant guarantees a national destiny.  Israel will have land and descendants of Abraham forever!  God needed a physical nation from which to love the world, and He placed real, physical people in the real, physical land He gave them!  One day, Romans 11:26 says, “All Israel will be saved!”  It will be a national revival, not simply a spiritual one.

BTW – if for no other reason than that, the church cannot be the “new Israel,” as Replacement Theology would suggest.

So, those are the 3 conditions, and keep in mind that God’s call is irrevocable!  His promises and His calling to Israel remain the same today as they have been throughout history.

I want to leave you with two passages that will set us up for tomorrow’s study.  Take so time and just let these passages sink in:

  • Isaiah 46:8-10 – God’s purpose is established and He will accomplish it!
  • Ezekiel 37:24-28 – God’s people will live in the land and David will rule over it!

Intriguing!  Come back tomorrow and let’s talk this out!

The First Great Covenant: Abrahamic Covenant

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So, here we go!  Though there are several other covenants in Scripture, important on their own merit, there are three that are inextricably necessary:

  • Abrahamic Covenant
  • Mosaic Covenant
  • New Covenant

Each is backed by the character of God, and together they represent a 3-legged stool.  If any of the three are taken away, the stool collapses, and God’s character is in jeopardy.  That just can’t be!

Thus, let’s examine the Abrahamic Covenant.  We have spent time previously on this covenant, but let’s glean specific details that link it to the other two.  To refresh, read Genesis 12:1-3.  It can be broken down into three parts:

  • God’s instruction, which Abraham obeyed (verse 1)
  • God’s promises (verses 2-3b)
  • God’s purpose (verse 3c)

Notice, it was God (not Abraham) who DECIDED what the covenant would entail.  Thus, the Abrahamic Covenant is the covenant of DECISION.  In fact, God decided long ago to preach the gospel to Abraham, making his descendants the vehicle of world redemption (Galatians 3:7-8).

As foundational and as important as the Abrahamic Covenant is, though, it is not enough!  Yes, God decided long ago to provide a means of salvation to both Jews and Gentiles, yet the world is not convinced we need salvation!  Thus, we need instruction and ability!

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the Mosaic Covenant – the covenant of INSTRUCTION!  These three covenants fit together, so don’t miss tomorrow’s study!

Blessings!

Reflection on Israel’s Role

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Welcome back to the study table, friends.  This week’s focus is the parting of ways of Jewish and Gentile believers, and yesterday we ended our session with a list of ways this has played out over the years.  The Jewish people (both believing and unbelieving) experienced great persecution through major world events such as the crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Reformation and the Holocaust…all in the name of Christianity.

Is it any wonder, then, that a chasm in relationship occurred between Jews and Gentiles?

Over centuries, the split led to Judaism without the Messiah and Christianity without Jewish roots.  What a sad result.  However, what amazing wisdom God provided Paul in writing Romans 9-11, the blueprint for reconciliation.  I wonder if Paul knew how greatly it would be needed in the 20th and 21st centuries!

But, let’s turn our focus back to Israel for today, and let’s review some key points we have already talked about in this study:

  • Israel was chosen by God for a specific purpose.  Do you remember what it is?  To be the vehicle of world redemption.  Genesis 12:3c  (The blessing is salvation!)
  • God’s covenant with Abraham was an everlasting covenant, promising land and descendants.
  • Vultures will attack!  (If you don’t know what that’s all about, check out The Suffering Call.)  Spiritual battle rages over Israel.
  • God guarantees Israel’s survival!  God’s promise to Abraham was an everlasting promise.  Therefore, if God’s promise to Israel fails, God fails.  Impossible!

But now an interesting question: are God’s promises conditional or unconditional?  In our live class on Sunday morning, the best answer was: “It depends on which promise!”  Indeed, it does!  God put Abraham to sleep to make covenant with him.  Thus, God depended upon Abraham for nothing.  That is unconditional.

However, in other places, God’s promises are conditional.  While land and descendants are non-negotiable, Israel’s blessings are fully conditional!  Need to see it with your own eyes?  Read Deuteronomy 29:10-13, 26-28.  There, we find God drawing the Israelites into covenant with him (verses 10-13), yet making it very conditional upon their faithfulness to God (verses 26-28).

God often demonstrated it in Scripture, such as in Isaiah 11:11-12 where He talked about regathering His people a “second time” (meaning, there was also a first time)!  Twice He allowed Israel to go into captivity (to Babylon in the 6th century BC, to the 4 corners of the world in 70 AD), yet twice He brought them out!  (I have never found anything about a third exile and return.  Thus, if Israel is disobedient now, I believe God will do a new thing…He will save His people!)

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 sums it up nicely as God lays out two options for His people: blessings or curses.  Life or death.  They may have either, and they get to choose by the way they honor God!

Tomorrow we’ll continue our focus on Israel as we talk about four Biblical principles concerning God’s dealing with Israel and the nations.  What does God have to say about choosing blessings or curses, life or death?  We’ll dive into it tomorrow, so check back then!