The Mystery of Israel
The Bible teaches us to not be ignorant of several things. We are not to be ignorant of the Gospel. We are not to be ignorant of spiritual gifts. We are not to be ignorant of satan’s devices. We are not to be ignorant of God’s righteousness, nor of the fact that the Gospel includes afflictions and sufferings. We are not to be ignorant of the mystery of Israel. Regarding Israel Paul tells us in Romans 11:11 – 27 (NKJV),
“I say then, have they (Israel) stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’”
We cannot be ignorant of this topic as God is bringing the issue of Israel center stage in these last days. That is not to say that we shouldn’t be about evangelism, discipleship, caring for the poor, etc. We absolutely should be! But, we cannot afford to leave the subject of Israel as a side-line issue.
Since the mystery of Israel is something we are not to be ignorant of and since Israel is a central theme in the Bible, the subject is worthy of our attention, study and time. How we deal with Israel is very important to God. God’s Word exhorts us to bless Israel in Genesis 12:3 and to comfort her people in Isaiah 40:1.
Many Christians have heard the verse in Genesis 12:3 but do we know what it is actually saying? If you know this verse in NIV, KJV, NKJV, or NASB then you are reading the second half of it as “those who curse you (Israel), I (God) will curse.” There are those who do curse Israel but probably not Christians, or at least hopefully not. What is important here is that the translation is not clear. In the Hebrew, two different words are used for the word translated “curse,” and they profoundly affect the meaning. (Please see the Interlinear here.) Notice that the first usage of “curse” is the Hebrew word qalal which also means “to esteem lightly, to think of as insignificant, and to dishonor.” The ESV and NLT versions make this distinction and do not use the word “curse” in the first usage of the word. When God says, “I will curse,” the word curse is the Hebrew word arar which means what we think it means “to curse.” Therefore as ESV says, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” It is a better rendering of what is meant. Therefore, according to this verse, it is not enough just to refrain from cursing Israel; those who ignore Israel or think she is insignificant in God’s plan are also under His curse!
When it comes to “Comfort my people.” (Isaiah 40:1) no further explanation is needed. It means the same in Hebrew and English. We see the Apostle Paul in agreement when in Romans 15 he says, “At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.” Please keep in mind that the “saints” in Jerusalem at that time were Jewish believers. Following Paul’s example, Gentile believers should bless the Jewish believers, especially those in Israel.
Bringing comfort to “my people (Israel)” also entails bringing them the Gospel. This is the highest comfort we can bring to anyone. In Matthew 15 Jesus said that he was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As he was sent, so he sends us! The Great Commission includes bringing the Gospel to the Jews. When entering a town, Paul always went to the Jews first! He said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) They may resist, but it is still our responsibility to exemplify our love for them and make them jealous of what we have so they are drawn to the Lord.
Our theology concerning Israel must be aligned with what the Bible teaches. The Church does not replace Israel. God still has a plan for Israel and because He is a faithful God, the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be fulfilled.
The next installment in this series of blogs will explore the theologies concerning Israel further. For now reading Romans Chapters 9 – 11 will be of great help! Shalom in Yeshua/Jesus.