By Stuart Rothberg*, Guest Author
Israel is on my mind, but not merely because I’m Jewish. I’ve always been Jewish, but I have not always been mindful of tiny, little Israel. That all changed when I met the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus). It was then that I realized why Israel should be on my mind; it is because Israel is on His mind.
And here is how it all began: God told a man named Abram (later to be named Abraham) to move. He was to leave familiar territory and go to a new place to which he had never been. Abram was 75 years old at the time. He was living in a place called Ur, in Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, modern day Iraq. That place was enmeshed in idolatry. God told Abram to go from that place to another place; a parcel of land already inhabited by a diverse group of people known as the Canaanites. Abram left and followed God’s directives into the “Land of Canaan”. And there, he heard from God again. “To your descendants,” said God, “I will give this land.” (Genesis 12:7)
God must have lost sight of the fact that people were already in this land. Surely God would not have given what He gave to Abram and his descendants if He remembered that it was the Land of the Canaanites. You see this would not be fair at all. What God did is simply not fair!
So let’s talk about “fair” for a bit. God created man “in His own image”. Man quickly sinned against Him and, as a result, sin entered the entire human race. God’s response was to send a flood judgment on all humankind. But He spared a remnant, Noah and his family, with whom He made a covenant not to destroy mankind in this way again. But, then people got together to build a tower reaching into heaven in defiance of God.
Now let’s talk about what would be “fair”: It would be fair for God to choose to give nothing to anybody and to, instead, obliterate everybody. But know this about God: He is not constrained by principles of fairness; He is free to give gifts of grace and of mercy. So, hot on the heals of the Tower of Babel incident in Genesis 11, is God, in Genesis 12, choosing a people group through whom He will graciously and mercifully implement His plan to redeem fallen mankind.
He chose a particular person, through whom would come a particular people,who He would place in a particular land, and through whom would come a particular Redeemer, with a particular plan of redemption, for nobody in particular! No, it is not “fair” to give the land of the Canaanites to Abraham’s descendants; it is sheer mercy and grace.
God promised the Land to Abraham’s descendants. This promise is referred to, in the Bible, as a COVENANT. It is a covenant with Abraham, and so it is known as the “Abrahamic Covenant.” The covenant made with Abram concerning this Land is not contingent on what the people do; it is what God has chosen to do. Its fulfillment depends on God alone. It is a land covenant without any conditions attached to it. A conditional covenant says “I will if you will.” No such thing in the Abrahamic Covenant. In it God simply says, “I will.”
But God made another covenant with Abraham’s descendants and it differs from this one. It was mediated through Moses and is, therefore, called the “Mosaic Covenant”. God gave Israel commandments to live by. It is known as the Law of Moses and, according to our Rabbis, actually consists of 613 commandments. It makes clear that there are blessings attached to obedience and consequences, which follow from disobedience. It is not without condition, as is the Abrahamic Covenant. We can understand, then, that Israel’s title deed to the land is unconditional but Israel’s enjoyment of the land is very much contingent on her obedience. Has she obeyed? No! And that is why she has not yet had unopposed enjoyment of the full extent of the land given to her by God.
This provides a wonderful parallel for us with regard to the New Covenant under which we are saved. It too is an unconditional covenant. Our salvation is God’s doing through and through. However, our enjoyment of salvation is very much a function of our obedience. Just as our disobedience does not nullify our salvation, so too Israel’s disobedience under the Mosaic Covenant does not nullify what God gave her under the Abrahamic Covenant.
That God gave Israel the land is undeniable. That He continues to maintain Israel’s place in the land is questioned. I can understand why. Israel has rebelled. But, her land rights have never hinged on her obedience. Israel’s title deed to the land is based on God’s unconditional, unilateral promise as contained in the Abrahamic Covenant.
But I would be missing out on some valuable information if I did not reflect on the record of God’s dealings with the Jewish people. I would be missing out on information pertaining to human nature versus divine nature. What I have learned as I observe God’s dealings with Israel and the Jewish people are twofold: 1) Under the best conditions, human nature is sinful. 2) Under all conditions, divine nature is merciful. The unfaithfulness of Israel has not surpassed the faithfulness of God. And, through this, I see God’s grace, which is “greater than all our sin”.
Why do I support Israel’s right to the land? Because the land is God’s to give and He chose to give it to Israel…and I do not want to defy God. But why such animosity towards Israel? Why these wars to “drive the Jews into the Sea”? It is not rational. It makes no sense from a geo-political perspective. This is because the explanation is spiritual not political.
The presence of Jewish people in the land does two things, both of which Satan hates: 1) IT PROVES THE BIBLE TO BE TRUE This is one of the many passages of Scripture that clearly state God’s intention to give the land of Israel to the Jewish people:
He has remembered His covenant forever,
the word which He commanded to a thousand generations,
the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath
to Isaac. Then He confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to
Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, “To you I will
give the land of Canaan as the portion of your inheritance.”
In A.D. 70, however, the Romans burned Jerusalem to the ground and forced the Jews out of their land. Since that time the Jews have experienced massacres, ghettos, purges, deportations, forced baptisms, concentration camps, and gas chambers. How in the world could they still be numerous enough to come settle in their homeland (in May of 1948)???
The modern State of Israel is nothing less than proof that God keeps His word. Dr. William F. Albright, for many years professor of Semitic languages at Johns Hopkins University, and perhaps the foremost biblical archaeologist of modern times, made this statement: “No other phenomenon in history is quite so extraordinary as the unique event represented by the restoration of Israel. At no other time in world history, so far as is known, has a people been destroyed, and then come back after a lapse of time and reestablished itself. It is utterly out of the question to seek a parallel for the recurrence of Israel’s restoration after 2500 years of further history.” We have proof that God does keep His promises: The Jewish people are back in the Land of Israel!
Fredric II, King of Prussia in the 1700’s, once had a conversation with one of his Generals, a Christian whom he respected. Frederic II said to him, “Give me proof for the truth of the Bible”. The General replied in only two words: “The Jews”. You cannot talk to a Babylonian or a Hittite or a Moabite today. But, you can talk to me, a Jewish person, if you’d like. We’re still here. How? We shouldn’t be. We should have died out long ago. Jews were out of their land for 2500 years of their 4000-year history. They survived 6 civilizations that have ended. They have survived all attempts to exterminate them.
And what does it prove? It proves that God can be trusted. It proves that His Word, the Bible, can be trusted. It proves that God keeps His promises. It proves that, if God has entered into covenant with you through the shed blood of Jesus, His Son, you can count on it being fulfilled, in spite of you! Let’s face it – if God cannot be trusted to fulfill His promises to Israel, how can He be trusted to fulfill His promises to you?
So then, the first thing the presence of Jewish people in the Land of Israel proves is the Bible. The second thing is this: 2) IT PROVES THE KORAN TO BE FALSE
Islam refers to Jews and Christians as “people of the Book”. The Jews are connected with the Old Testament and Christians with the New Testament. According to Islam, both groups have failed to please God and, therefore, He has transferred His promises to Muslim people. Islam has thus superseded Judaism and Christianity. This is graphically symbolized in the striking architectural structure seen in panoramic views of Jerusalem: the Dome of the Rock.
The elevated position of this Islamic structure is deliberate. It symbolizes Islam’s supremacy over Judaism and Christianity. It is higher than the Western Wall (holiest site in Judaism) and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (holiest site to several Christian groups). But, if you go to Israel today, it sure doesn’t look like God has withdrawn His blessing from the Jewish people. In fact, the land, once dry, barren, and mosquito-infested, is thriving!
Jewish people settling and prospering in the Land of Israel invalidates the Koran and, therefore, the Jews must be removed entirely. They must be destroyed. They are living proof that Mohammed is a false prophet and that the Koran is a false book.
So how will all this ever be resolved? When Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem to the God of Israel, God said this in 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“If My people who are called by My name humble
themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their
wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive
their sin and will heal their land.”
What an offer! God says in effect, “My heart is open to My people Israel.” It appears that God has not given up on the Jewish people and neither can we.
But some say God has already rejected and replaced the Jewish people. Is that consistent with the Bible? Paul asks and then answers this very question in Romans 11:1.
“I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May
it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of
Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.”
Paul offers himself as evidence that God is not finished with the Jewish people. In fact, in Romans 11:11, he says this:
“I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they?
May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has
come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.”
The Jewish people have indeed stumbled over Jesus as the means of right-standing with God. But does that stumbling lead to their permanent fall? No! Their stumbling is not the end of them. God is not finished with them. And He even has a purpose for their stumbling: the stumbling of the Jewish people provides an occasion for the salvation of Gentile people. And what purpose does God have in mind for the salvation of Gentile people? As Paul stated, it is that they, having found Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, might provoke the jealousy of Jewish people so that they too might be saved.
I’m grateful to God for the Gentile believer, Mark Santostefano, who, in 1973, while stationed together in the military, provoked me to jealousy. He lived out his faith before me. He became my friend. He prayed for my salvation. He risked our friendship by telling me about my sin and my need for the Savior. There are many other Jewish people like me out there. Please don’t leave us out. If the Gospel is for anyone, it most assuredly is for Jewish people. Hear again the words of Paul in Romans 1:16.
“I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God
for salvation, to all who believe; to the Jew first, and also
to the Gentile.”
Israel is on the minds of many today. Many are mindful of Israel’s presence and prosperity and insist on her destruction. But it must not be this way for those of us who claim a connection to Yeshua, Israel’s Messiah. May we resist distorted and unbiblical thinking with regard to Israel and, instead, may we be mindful of Israel in ways consistent with the mind of Israel’s God, as expressed through Israel’s prophet, Jeremiah:
“At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all
the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.”
Thus says the Lord, “The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness— Israel, when it went to find
The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved
you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you
Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt, O virgin of
Again you will take up your tambourines, and go forth to
the dances of the merrymakers.
Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the
planters will plant and will enjoy them.
For there will be a day when watchmen on the hills of
Ephraim call out, ‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the
Lord our God.’”
For thus says the Lord, “Sing aloud with gladness for
Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; proclaim,
give praise and say, ‘O Lord, save Your people, the
remnant of Israel.’
“Behold, I am bringing them from the north country, and I
will gather them from the remote parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child
and she who is in labor with child, together; a great
company, they will return here.
With weeping they will come, and by supplication I will
lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, on
a straight path in which they will not stumble; for I am a
father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.
Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare in the
coastlands afar off, and say, “He who scattered Israel will
gather him and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.”
*Stuart Rothberg is a Jewish believer in Yeshua. He is a Teaching Pastor at Sagemont Church in Houston, TX.
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