Falling in Love with Israel

IMG_2380I’ve watched a couple of DVDs this week, lent to me by one of the families in Naracoorte. One DVD, produced by Andre Djaoui, tells the story of Israel – its land, its people and Jerusalem. It is called “Israel, My Home”. I watched it, expecting to be awed by the beautiful panoramic views of its land, but the Lord wanted to show me more than this. Over the past 2-3 years, I’ve been intentionally learning about Israel, God’s chosen people. I don’t remember exactly when it was impressed upon my heart, but at some point, I realised how important the people of Israel were to God’s heart, yet how neglected they had been in the view of the church. The people of Israel are unique, chosen and blessed. At first, I grew to know them, to recognise how God saw them and how He proved Himself faithful, and powerful time and time again. Then, as I understood God’s relationship with Israel more and more, I found that it was impossible to grow in love for God without also cultivating a love for His people at the same time. Yes, His people are all those who love him, from every tribe and nation and language, but His people are also Israel, whom He chose to be blessed, and to be a blessing to all nations. As I watched the DVD, “Israel, My Home”, my heart was greatly moved for Israel like it had never been before. Over the last few years, I realise that God has steadily grown me to see how He feels about Israel, and to know the deep, unrelenting love He has for them. As I listened to the story of Israel, I remembered a people blessed by God, and a people loved by Him. In Zechariah, God says, “I am zealous for Jerusalem, and for Zion with great zeal.” As God is zealous for Israel, so I also am zealous for them.

[Isaiah 62:1] “For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace,
And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness
And her salvation as a lamp that burns”

There are many things to say about Israel, many Bible passages and many historical sources. Below are some things I have been thinking about. However, for now, I just want to share some of God’s vision for Israel – His heart for them as He has shown me.

  1. God’s vision for Israel
  2. Israel and the Gentiles
    • Israel’s Persecution
    • Israel’s Blessing
  3. Why bless Israel? And how?

God’s Vision for Israel

To begin with, here is a reminder of the promise God made to Abram. It is a promise that still stands, and will stand for eternity. God has never forsaken Israel, but He upholds every promise He has spoken to them.

[Genesis 12:2-3] “I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you and make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

This promise was not just for a moment, or a generation. This is an eternal promise to the people of Israel. It is something the apostle Paul understood as He addressed the Roman church, reminding them where their blessing came from:

[Romans 11:29-32] – “   For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their (Israel’s) disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.”

Listen to what Paul is saying here:

  • “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.”
    • God put these words in the mouth of Balaam so that when He was asked to curse Israel, He spoke this declaration of God’s character instead: [Numbers 23:19-21] – “God is not a man, that He should lie,
      Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
      Has He said, and will He not do?
      Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
      Behold, I have received a command to bless;
      He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.
      He has not observed iniquity in Jacob,
      Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.
      The Lord his God is with him,
      And the shout of a King is among them…”
  • “You were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their (Israel’s disobedience…”
    • [Romans 11:11-12] expounds this further – “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” Have you ever prayed, “Lord, do whatever it takes?” “Do whatever it takes to change my heart more into your image; do whatever it takes to allow this person to see you.” Have you ever seen the results of this prayer? I have seen it, and I know many others who have and who have shared their testimony. Sometimes, a period of trials and stumbling come before glory and salvation.
    • Luke describes how Simeon blessed God when he sees Jesus in [Luke 2:32] – “A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” So Jesus is both salvation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel.
  • “(Israel also has) now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy.”
    • Romans 11 continues to describe the outcome of God’s relationship with both Jew and Gentile. It is a relationship based on belief, on being supported by the root (God). “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” The firstfruit is Jesus and He IS holy. Because He is holy, Israel is holy (the natural braches). Because the root is holy (God), all the branches are holy (the Gentiles, described wild olive branches that have been grafted in, and the Jews, described as natural branches which even if cut off at one time, may be grafted back in if they do not continue in their unbelief.)
  • “For God committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.”
    • God’s mercy was made available to all nations through His dealings with Israel, in their faithfulness, but also in their disobedience. So then, in Israel, their failings, and even more so in their fullness, all the families of the earth are blessed, just as God promises. (Also Romans 11:11-12, 15)
    • God Himself is the author of mercy. [Romans 1:15-16] – “For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’ So then, it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”  We cannot deserve or earn mercy, but it comes from God alone. We receive mercy when we receive God.

SNAPSHOT: God’s Love for Israel

The Bible is so saturated with God’s descriptions of how He loves Israel. There are so many passages, that I cannot write them all down here! However, here is a brief snapshot:

[Genesis 12:2]“I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.”

  • [Exodus 15:17]“You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which You have made for Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.”

[Leviticus 12:45]“For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore by holy, for I am holy.”

  • [Numbers 24:5-7]How lovely are your tents, O Jacob!
    Your dwellings O Israel!
    Like valleys that stretch out,
    Like gardens by the riverside,
    Like aloes planted by the Lord,
    Like cedars beside the waters
    He shall pour water from his buckets,
    And his seed shall be in many waters.
    His king shall be higher than Agag,
    And his kingdom shall be exalted.”

[Deuteronomy 2:7] – “For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.”

  • [Joshua 23:3] – “You have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all the nations because of you, for the Lord your God is He who has fought for you.”

[Judges 2:18] – “And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them.”

  • [1 Samuel 12:22] – “For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.”

[2 Samuel 7:23-24] – “And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make Himself a name – and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land – before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations and their gods? For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, Lord, have become their God.”

  • [Psalm 68:26, 34] – “Bless God in the congregations, the Lord from the fountain of Israel…Ascribe strength to God; His excellence is over Israel, and His strength is in the clouds.”

[Isaiah 62:3-4] – “You shall also be a crown of glory
In the hand of the Lord,
And a royal diadem
In the hand of your God.
You shall no longer be termed Forsaken,
Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate;
But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah;
For the Lord delights in you,
And your land shall be married.”

  • [Jeremiah 2:2-3] – “…Thus says the Lord:
    I remember you,
    The kindness of your youth,
    The love of your betrothal,
    When you went after Me in the wilderness,
    In a land not sown.
    Israel was holiness to the Lord,
    The firstfruits of His incense,
    All that devour him will offend;
    Disaster will come upon them…”

[Ezekiel 16:60] – “Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.”

  • [Hosea 14:4-6] – “I will heal their backsliding,
    I will love them freely,
    For My anger has turned away from him.
    I will be like the dew to Israel;
    He shall grow like the lily,
    And lengthen his roots like Lebanon.
    His branches shall spread;
    His beauty shall be like an olive tree,
    And his fragrance like Lebanon.”

[Joel 2:18-19] – “Then the Lord will be zealous for His land,
And pity His people.
The Lord will answer and say to His people,
‘Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil,
And you will be satisfied by them;
I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.”

  • [Amos 9:15] – “I will plant them in their land,
    And no longer shall they be pulled up
    From the land I have given them,
    Says the Lord your God.”

[Micah  5:3] – “Therefore He shall give them up until the time that she who is in labour has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren shall return to the children of Israel.”

  • [Zechariah 8:2-3] – “…I am zealous for Zion with great zeal; with great fevour I am zealous for her…I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth.”

[Malachi 1:2] – “’I have loved you,’ says the Lord…”

  • [Matthew 10:6] – “But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

[Luke 1:54-55] – “He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As he spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

  • [Acts 2:36] – “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

[Romans 11:2,5] – “God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew…Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”

  • [Ephesians 2:12-13] – “that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

[Hebrews 12:22] – “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels.”

  • [Revelation 21:10,12] – “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God…Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.”

IMG_2384

These represent such a tiny portion of all that is written about God’s heart towards Israel. If God bothered to speak so much about His people, Israel, doesn’t that say something about their importance to Him. I haven’t expounded on any one of these passages and verses, yet even as I read these short snippets, I see God’s character revealed in His relationship with Israel:

  • His faithfulness – That He never forsakes them, but is constantly with them in every season – in their exile and return, in their disobedience and obedience.
  • The validity of His word – as He constantly reminds them of what He has promised and purposed for them, and as He constantly reminds them that these things will come to pass
  • His pursuit – God doesn’t give up, but actively chases and calls out for Israel to hear Him, see Him, and know Him.
  • His protection and provision – Protection from Israel’s enemies, and provision in their need physically and spiritually. God is the shield and gardener of Israel.
  • His tenderness – God has every right to be angry with a people who constantly despise Him, yet while He is just in His dealings with Israel, He continues to speak tenderly with them, to remind them of how much He loves them, and how much He desires that they would be One with Him.

At the same time, I see God’s view of Israel, the way He relates to them:

  • As the “children of Israel”, His own children whom He loves, disciplines and teaches in His way.
  • As a betrothed lover who, in in her infidelity, He loves and desires union with. He remembers the day of her youth, and the covenant promise He has made with her.
  • His holiness and glory. God has chosen that they would share in His holiness and that His glory would be manifest through and in Israel.
  •  He calls them beautiful, and plentiful, not lacking for anything as He has promised always to provide for Israel.

There is so much to learn and understand about Israel, but the Lord desires that we know it. He wants us to share with Him in His love for Israel. They are a people for whom His heart greatly desires and as we grow to know God more, we will grow also to love Israel more. I still feel like I am only uncovering the first layers of God’s zealousness for Israel, but I eagerly desire to know more! Paul so understood God’s heart for Israel that he wrote this in [Romans 9:1-5]:

“I tell the truth in Christ. I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”

May we all grow to understand more the love of God for His people and inheritance – for Israel, and the nations.


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