Jan 7, 2008

Why Israel?

By Don Boyd

After living in the Holy Land for nearly eight years, I was recently asked by a dear Christian brother, "Why Israel?"

What this particular friend had in mind was a question many Christians worldwide are exploring these days with greater determination:

“What importance, if any, does the modern State of Israel hold in relation to the the Church and life as a Christian?”

Has God given up on Israel? Has He ceased to identify himself as the God of Israel today?

I’ve come to believe that despite the many disapointments one might encounter as we observe events in the Middle East, the Eternal One will show Himself true to His word and act in agreement with what He has promised. In this way, we can be certain of who He really is!

It was David Pawson, a well known Bible teacher, who recently commented, “There is only a supernatural explanation for the survival of the Jewish people!”

Considering the persecution faced by the Jewish people in every generation, and still only comprising about 0.1% of the world’s population, their story of survival is a miracle and truly one of a kind!

Ever wonder why the eyes of the world are on Israel?

Pawson further remarks, “The existence of the Jewish people is a proof also of the existence of their God, both in their survival and in their suffering.”

Romans 9 supports this conviction by establishing God’s desire to reveal Himself through both His judgments and His mercy. Today, God continues to love the Jewish nation because he’s a gracious, covenant keeping God.

Yet, what discourages many Christians is the question of Israel’s apparent separation from God despite being supposedly God’s chosen people. Even concerning the modern day return to the land, religious Jews and Christians alike are asking, “How could a holy God be behind the revived State of Israel in its present moral and spiritual condition?”

Many can testify to the dangers of allowing disappointments to shape the way we see God and interpret His word. We need only consider that you and I alike were in sin when God first drew near to us. It was not because of our righteousness, but because of His great love for us.

Israel, like you and I, is a work in progress.

A New Testament motto which merits our consideration affirms, “Though we might be faithless, He will remain faithful, because God cannot disown Himself!”

In even bolder terms, the LORD himself once proclaimed concerning the New Covenant, “Only if the universe can be measured, and the depths of the earth searched out, will I reject the descendants of Israel for all they have done”.

God loves the Jewish people. Some have observed, if He no longer did, what’s to say He wouldn’t stop loving us too? Yet, because God’s commitment to Israel is eternal, as is His grace, and because God has said, “I do not change”, we can rest secure in His promises.

You may have heard it said, “We were not chosen because we’re special; we’re special because they we were chosen.” So, to the Christian I write: God loves the Jewish people because He is loving, not because they are deemed more lovable.

In this way we can see that His choosing of the Jewish people is totally consistent with His character. We call it grace. Simply put, it is the goodness of God.

Even in the Old Testament writings, ‘grace’ itself is one of the most common words used in connection with God’s character.

Thus, in Israel we find the greatest example of God’s unmerited favor ever revealed. God wants to be known, and through His dealings with Israel he has made Himself known to the nations!

Still, as Christians, we look for more than a physical return of the Jewish people to the land. We believe also for a spiritual return to the LORD and the true face of His salvation.

Travelling through Europe last summer, I was surprised to discover how enthusiastic German believers were to pray for the revived State of Israel! One such prayer inscribed in a Sunday liturgy book at a Lutheran church read in English as follows:

“We Pray for Israel, the people of your special [covenant] love. Forgive us our wrongs against them, both past and present. Help us to make a stand against every form of anti-Semitism. May your people look to you alone for peace and refuge. Stand by them in their current trials and guide them through the dark valley of suffering to their glorious destiny as your chosen people!”

In reading this, I too was inspired to pray for Israel with the understanding that Israel and those grafted in share a common destiny! Together we ought to anticipate God’s purposes concerning Israel and look forward to their fulfilment.

So, why Israel?

As many before have already professed:

Through Israel God tells us what He is like. In fact, through Israel God tells the whole world what He is like.

* The writer would like to credit David Pawson for much of the substance present in this article.