Is God Always on Israel’s Side?

English: English translation of hebrew version...

English translation of Hebrew. Map of the twelve tribes of Israel, before the move of Dan to the North (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I honestly dislike controversy. I try to avoid it. But the things which matter most to me are always on collision course with the things that others decide are too “controversial” to speak about in polite company.  Marriage, families, protecting babies, and the freedom of religion—all these are important realities which rile abortion supporters and those who wish to dismantle the traditional family.

Above all else, I care about Christ and sharing God’s love with others. So, I have to speak concerning the controversial subject of Israel (because it involves Christ). I read a popular Christian post which proclaimed that God is always on the side of Israel. I do not think that is true—at least not in the way the author meant it.  Before I explain further, I heartily agree that the nation of Israel needs our support, considering that it is freedom’s best ally in the Middle East, and many of her neighbors are busily working to see her annihilated.

That being said, the Bible nowhere offers warrant for saying the present nation of Israel is comprised of the people of God.  The land and the people filling it have no hope of being part of the kingdom of God without faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  Like the novelist Anne Rice, I understand the presence of the Jews as an “immense  mystery” without a natural  solution.  It takes God to explain the existence of Jews in this world, and it may well be that at some point in the future there will be a great outpouring of faith towards Christ among the Jews (Romans 11:25-29).

Nevertheless, the present nation of Israel does not exist as a vessel of God’s special favor.  The reason is simply this: The concept of Israel is a personal concept in Scripture, not a national one. The present nation of Israel is a national entity, not a personal one.

In the Bible, Israel is a person. Originally, Israel is the name given to Jacob after he wrestled with the angel of God (Genesis 32:24ff).  Israel later became the collective name for the twelve tribes of Israel (which, of course, was a reference to the twelve sons of Jacob).  The original, biblical understanding of the name Israel was a reference to a person.  This person represented other people.

In a foreshadowing of the Christ who would later come to fulfill God’s purposes for His people, Exodus 4:22 says, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is My son, My firstborn.”  Again, in prophetic utterance, Hosea gets a word from God: “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1). All the prophecies about God’s Son—Israel—have seen their fulfillment in Christ, who came not to abolish the law, but to complete the law and the prophets.  So, in Matthew 2, Jesus was taken as a child into Egypt so that Hosea 11:1 would be fulfilled—out of Egypt, God called His Son.

The concept of Israel and the person of God’s Son both find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  Acts 13:32-39 speaks of early Christians preaching Christ as the fulfillment of these prophetic words:

And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus as it is written in the 2nd Psalm, ‘You are my son, Today I have begotten you.’ 

The Apostle Paul (in Romans 9:6-8) spent much time and energy pleading with the Jews (who occupied the land which today makes up Israel) so that they would stop taking comfort in their ethnicity.  He spoke plainly that their hope was not to be found in “Israel” but in Isaac—not in the flesh but in the promise of God.  In other words, Paul says, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel… this means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise….”

To Be Continued (Let your mind chew on these thoughts, while I get ready to post more tomorrow)

Should All Christians Prophesy?

Eldad and Medad began prophesying in the camp (Numbers 11).  Joshua was alarmed and cried out for Moses to make them stop.  Joshua, apparently, viewed prophesying to be a gift specific to Moses, the commander and leader from God.  He felt threatened by the appearance of prophecy among the laity.  He seemed afraid that the increase of prophesying would decrease Moses’ authority.

But it was not so.  Far from feeling threatened, Moses was glad that these two were prophesying.  And not just these—Moses preferred that the Spirit would be poured out on all of Israel.  Moses’s attitude was one of “Let the prophesying begin! Bring on the gift for everyone.”

Yet, before we go too far following the prophesying parade and the charismatic appeal for spiritual gifts, we would be well-served to look a bit more closely at the text.  Moses was not an early full-gospel, charismatic preacher.  Those who would make his appeal the model for the modern day tongues and prophecy parades should stop for a closer look at Numbers 11.  Far from Numbers 11 being an appeal for God’s people to be drunk with the Spirit, this text actually demands sobriety before God.

It is true that Moses responds to Joshua’s concern about Eldad and Medad by saying to Joshua, “Are you jealous for my sake?  Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”  What is also much more profoundly true is the reason Moses longed for the spirit to be given the people of Israel.

Moses, in the beginning of chapter 11, is pictured crying out to the Lord under the burden of caring for and directing the people of God.  In fact, Moses actually begs to die under the awful load of the leadership of God’s people.  He says, “I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.  If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.”

The grace of God does not kill Moses.  Instead, God gathers 70 elders on whom he gives a portion of his Spirit.  You can see easily why Moses is glad to hear that others in the camp were receiving the Holy Spirit.  The more people receive the Spirit, the less burden he has.  The Spirit directs people in the way of God.  Oh, that God would indeed pour out his Spirit on all flesh!  Then, people would avoid the awful sins which wreck marriages, families, and generations of children who are left to reap the rotten fruit sown in the soils of sinful rebellion.

Moses had to deal with life and death every day.  He had to lead a people in the ways of God; yet, those people were often stiff-necked rebels against the way of God (and against Moses).  Moses wanted them to receive God’s Spirit so they would all prophesy to each other and thereby follow God’s ways without his having to constantly plead with them, warn them, rebuke them, and thanklessly model for them a faithful life.  That God would pour forth his Spirit indeed!  Then people would feel the weight of eternity and obey gladly the author of life.