Why Christians Should Care About Israel
Why Christians Should Care About Israel
by Lonnie Lane
I received an email from a pastor in India whom I had never heard from before. I know some of you are “tech savvy” people who are quite used to being instantly in touch with whomever wherever. But it still amazes me that I sit at my desk in my little office in North Florida and people around the world read my thoughts on this website. So, because this dear man in India has been reading the articles on the Messianic Vision website, for a while he says, previously unbeknownst to us of course, he is now imparting what he’s gleaned to those under his pastoral care in his house church. You now can get in on that dialog, all to the wonders of the internet. You might even want to say a mini-prayer of blessings for this brother. An even greater wonder — God connects us by His Spirit. Don’t you love it?
Here’s what he writes: “…We are focusing on praying for Israel but I would need your help. Do you have any articles which explain why as Christians we need to pray for Israel and what is the importance of being connected with things of Israel?… Do you think you can help us out in this growth with the Lord?” That’s like asking Yeshua if He can heal. I want to reply, “If I can?” OK, that sounded really arrogant. I mean it humbly. Honest. That is what this website is largely all about though, isn’t it? Helping Believers understand the place of Israel for all of God’s people. Hopefully, we can help answer that question to some satisfaction. The topic is almost inexhaustible. Let’s try to look at this with new eyes, from above with God’s eyes, not down on the earth mired in political or wrong spiritual concepts we’ve already had of Israel or the church’s (non-)relationship with Israel. We are attempting to see this through God’s perspective and His heart.
First of all, we care about Israel because God cares about Israel. We love what God loves and God loves Israel.
“We love what God loves and God loves Israel.”
What we (and He) care about, we pray for. However, as this pastor’s very question suggests, the church doesn’t always see the connection between Israel and the church. Contrary to millennia-long faulty church doctrine, God was never “finished with the Jews” or with Israel. He never divorced them, “For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel” (Malachi 2:16). Nor did He forsake them: “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5; Also see Deut. 31:6 and Joshua 1:5). Why? “Because the Lord loved Israel forever” (1 Kings 10:9) and “because your God loved Israel, establishing them forever”(2 Chronicles 9:8). Forever pretty much settles how long God will love Israel.
Everything God ever gave to His people, Jew or Gentile, Old Covenant or New, was related to Israel. If you can, divorce yourself from the concept of present day political or even ethnic Israel and telescope away to a different perspective, look at it from above. Ultimately, “all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Numbers 14:21). Israel is a down-payment, a promise of that coming to pass.
God makes it emphatically clear that even the sun, moon and stars would have to disappear if He were to allow Israel to disappear: “Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The Lord of hosts (Adonai Savaout) is His name. If this fixed order departs from before Me,” declares the Lord, then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever. Thus says the Lord, If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel” (Jeremiah 31:35-37).
Now think about this: If God established Israel as His own people under His covenant with Abraham forever, is He not likely to care that those who also call themselves His own people under the New Covenant would be aware and care about His own deep and ‘forever’ commitment to Israel? If it remains significant to God, wouldn’t He want it to remain significant to anyone who calls themselves His? Consider this personal story for a moment in terms of why Christians should care about Israel. I do not share this lightly. It was insight into the heart of the Lord and therefore a holy experience for me. Please read it that way.
I had wanted to live in Israel for decades but couldn’t while my children were young for various reasons. Upon my youngest becoming 18 she and I went to Israel for a few months to pray and seriously consider “making aliyah” (moving to Israel). In time, the Lord told me that I would be back and forth but I would never live in Israel. The morning I left Jerusalem to fly back to New York, I drove past the walls of the Old City at dawn when the sky was a mere tinge of pink against which the walls were silhouetted. I didn’t know when I would see them next or return again to my beloved Israel. It could be years. Suddenly I experienced a pain that was unbearable. I cannot tell you if it was spiritual, emotional or physical. It took over my entire being. Never have I ever had such pain that was utterly unbearable. It was excruciating to the point of barely being able to say, “Lord, I cannot bear this.”
Immediately He took the pain away. For the next twenty-four hours on my trip back to the States He began to show me that my calling was to the Kingdom and not the Land itself and I needed to be in America to fulfill whatever He had for me to do. I knew nothing of writing these articles at the time. I can only assume that what I felt was something of what God feels for Israel: the longing, the anguish, the desperate separation from Him when He still “longs to gather them under His wings like a mother hen” (Matthew 23:37) to protect them. Perhaps it was the emotional as well as the physical pain of so many and the anguish caused by the constant wars and the continual barrage of rockets that leads to the loss of lives and loved ones, all of which He feels daily because He feels our pain with us. I don’t know. I only know that God cares for Israel beyond what any of us is able to imagine or to bear. If you have any longing to be immersed into His heart, then a love for Israel must be a part of your heart as well.
Much of the church may not even give any thought to God’s heart for Israel or the fact that Israel exists solely because He said she would. Israel’s very existence is His doing! If God hadn’t keep His covenant with Israel, then He would be a liar, or too powerless to make good on His promises. Either, He would have reneged on His Word or He wasn’t able to make it happen. Unthinkable, when you consider it. But that is what a large proportion of the church has thought when they believe that all the promises to Israel belong to the church and not Israel. That’s called “replacement theology.” Do you think the devil must have had something to do with causing that disconnect in the church’s ideas about Israel and God? I would think so. It certainly wasn’t from God Himself. He declared His faithfulness to Israel over and over. If He said it once, it still holds. “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 it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)
So then, to clarify, has He broken His covenant with Israel? No. Even if Israel should forget her covenant with God, “He will remember His covenant forever” (Psalm 111:5). Even today, though (a growing number yet) not all
“[God] may have gotten angry with Israel when they strayed from Him… but He never broke His word to them or revoked His promises.”
of the Jewish people seek the Lord through His Messiah, “He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations” (Psalm 105:8). Let’s see: 40 years (a generation) times 1000 = 4,000 years. Long time. Even then, He still says He remembers His covenant forever! God does not change as we do. He may have gotten angry with Israel when they strayed from Him, or went into idolatry, but He never broke His word to them or revoked His promises. He is, after all, “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If He doesn’t keep His promises to Israel, how can we trust He will keep His promises to the church, since the church’s promises are really Israel’s promises. His promises have always been in relation to Israel..
We have established that what God covenanted with Israel He will maintain. But, you may say, we have a New Covenant with Yeshua which changes everything. Granted the New Covenant changed a great deal, but the church has erroneously misinterpreted the term “New Covenant” to mean that the Old Covenant God made with Israel is obsolete, over, done with, cancelled. Not so! We just read how God keeps His word and His covenants. But more importantly, the New Covenant was made with Israel, not with the Gentiles that would come to faith in Yeshua later. Consider God’s words through the prophet Jeremiah:
“Behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD, I will put My law (Torah) within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people…declares the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-36). “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26).
Those sound like New Testament realities, don’t they? A new covenant; writing His Word on our hearts; forgiving our iniquities, no longer remembering our sin, giving us a new heart, and (His) spirit within us? These sound like what Yeshua did for us, indeed. Didn’t He say at the last supper with His disciples that He was inaugurating a New Covenant when “He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the New Covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor 11:25)? These were His Jewish disciples He said it to. The New Covenant was first to Israel. The Gentiles who came into the New Covenant through Yeshua’s blood have come into the New Covenant which God made with Israel. It opened the door to others besides Israel to come into a relationship with Israel’s God (Who is, of course, the only God!) To know Him better, learning the social and religious context of what He said and did will bring deeper revelation as to the Person of Yeshua of Nazareth. The New Testament comes alive as never before when we begin to see Him as a Torah-observant Hebrew. It will also give you new insight into the faith and practices of the early church.
When we “remember” Yeshua in “communion” we are remembering His new covenant with Israel and the Jewish people. It’s this covenant into which Gentiles are able to come. This fact should connect the church’s heart with Israel. We are one in God’s heart. One new humanity (Eph 2:14,1 5). Even if all of Israel doesn’t believe in her Messiah yet, those, be they Gentiles or Jews, who have come to Yeshua have come to the Messiah of Israel. We have the privilege of knowing Him, but He longs for all Israel (and all men) to know Him. Therein is cause for prayer. Not for what we might get out of it, but for what He might get out of it — the coming of His first born children to Himself. Nothing happens unless someone is praying. If you want to pray according to His will, praying for Israel is a good thing to be doing.
This brings up a whole plethora of other reasons as to why the church should care about Israel. To fully understand and grasp the full significance or holiness of the things which comprise the New Covenant, such as the meaning of His blood and sacrifice for sin, somewhat of a knowledge of what blood for sacrifice and atonement meant to Israel will bring a much deeper revelation of the significance. The sacrifices of animals were bloody. Yeshua’s death was too. It wasn’t a nice tidy clean Temple where the sacrifices were done. It was messy. So was His death. Having to put to death all those animals, who were perhaps putting up a fight for their lives, could not have been just pleasant priestly duties. It was hard work and bloody, taking the lives of all those animals. On the other hand, Yeshua “was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth” (Is 53:7). Still, it was a slaughter.
Read and picture what must have really taken place sacrificing all those animals and then project that onto the “sacrifice” of our Lord. The animals for sacrifice had to be drained of their blood. That meant aside from the cross itself, He had to have bled to death — drained of His blood as the final sacrifice for sin. That alone will give you a new dimension of appreciation for what He went through for us that wouldn’t know from the New Covenant alone.
I expect that there is a ceiling on how deeply the church really understands what holiness is, or knows of the holy “fear of God (which) is clean, enduring forever (or that) the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:9) without seeing God’s Self-Disclosure as the Holy One of Israel. The church will not fully grasp the depths of what Yeshua did for us in removing our sin unless you see how terrified Israel was at times when confronted with the holiness of God or His wrath against sin. Meditate on Israel’s terrified response to the holy presence of God on Mt. Sinai for the first time and let that sink into your heart for a new and humble appreciation for Yeshua making a way for us to enter into the presence of His Father. Do we take being able to do so a bit too much for granted? Are we aware of how holy God is? And how Yeshua’s blood truly made us “clean” and His-presence-worthy? Consider these things and see if it doesn’t affect the next time you’re in a time of worship. We only worship what we know really. We worship to the level of our understanding and revelation of the Lord. I suggest there is much to be gleaned in the Old Covenant about the Lord. Go mining for gold; you’re sure to find it in those pages. And when praying for Israel, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in your prayers for Israel. “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should .…” (See Romans 8:26).
The New Testament was written primarily to Believers and so it does not convey the depths of the consequences of non-compliance to God’s ways that the history of Israel with God will convey and and sensitize us to. The New Covenant stands only on the (holy) ground of all of God’s interactions with Israel. It does not stand alone in God’s eyes. If the church would take as seriously the Old Covenant as we do the New Covenant, I dare say many of the compromises in the church today would be absent, many of the confusions about values would be straightened out. We would not have undisciplined and disrespectful children, nor neglected older parents put away in nursing homes without the tender loving care of those they love and trust. We would not have homosexuality, nor witchcraft, nor horoscopes, nor any other form of occult religions, or idolatry which would include the statues still regarded by some who call themselves Christians. We would not have the moral bankruptcy that we have today, nor the divorces, nor the abandonment of spouses and children that is rampant, even among Christians. We would not have the confusion that causes good to be called evil and evil to be called good.
So you can see that to care not only about Israel but about what God imparted to Israel, provides for wisdom, and for sanctification when we know something of God’s heart about “the particulars.” These kept Israel not only right with Him, but healthy and in a peaceful environment and a stable society when they followed His Instructions to them. The covenant He gave to Israel was one in which He promised to be their God and gave them requirements for how they were to live as the people of God. If they disobeyed God’s word to them, there were consequences, just as there were abundant blessings for obedience. Though we may be saved by the Blood of Yeshua and His great grace, the outworking of our lives is largely about how we appropriate what God makes available for us and how we yield to His sanctification process. I suggest that a picture in our minds of “the particulars” might go a long way toward putting yourself in the position for receiving His blessings.
God, knowing all things before even the foundation of the world, made His covenant with Israel knowing all that
“…God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob maintain for their descendents today which always were three-fold: the land, their descendents, and His relationship with them.”
would come about regarding her, including her backsliding. Israel and the Jewish people exist at all today “because… the Lord who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel…has chosen You (Israel)” (Isaiah 49:7). God never revokes His calling, His gifts or His love from a people: “from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers, for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:28, 29). That means God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob maintain for their descendents today which always were three-fold: the land, their descendents, and His relationship with them.
With regard to the land, lest we let what we hear in the News today affect our thinking, the Lord says, “The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you, And I will give the land to your descendants after you” (Genesis 35:12. The number of verses related to God’s promise of the land are in the hundreds, 365 it has been estimated. (See Genesis:13:7; 28:13; Exodus 6:8; 32:13 to begin with.) There are even a number of verses that speak about Israel’s return to the land after having been scattered for a long time.
Right here we find reason for looking from God’s perspective again to see how He regards Israel — she is a picture of God’s sovereign plan to redeem the entire earth. Though she was out of her land for over 1900 years, God has kept His Covenant with Israel and, miracle of miracle, in one day, the United Nations voted to re-establish the nation of Israel on her same land in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy: “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once” (Isaiah 66:8)? It was. A reborn Israel was once again on the same soil, with the same people, with the same God, same religion, same (religious) laws and even the same language: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Once again they will speak this word in the land of Judah and in its cities when I restore their fortunes”(Jer. 31:23).
However, the world seems hell-bent on divesting Israel of her land. The threat is there because the closer we get to the Lord’s return, the more threatened satan is. It is to Israel that Yeshua will return. “In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.” (Zechariah 14:4). Personally, I’m expecting that that dome of the rock mosque will be the first to be swallowed up in this predicted earthquake as it’s built on the site of the Holy of Holies of the Temple.
Israel needs our prayers as never before, that she not loose her land, that each of our nations stands with her and doesn’t turn their backs on Israel or the Jews within their borders. Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism is higher today in Europe, for instance, than since 1938 when the Nazis came into power. We must pray that God’s will and not the devil’s or man’s will be done and nothing will happen that isn’t in God’s timing either. Open your Bible and begin to pray in agreement with God in what He promised to Israel in the prophets regarding her Land and His protection for her. “I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19) It can be just you and God when you agree with His Word.
As for God restoring Israel’s fortunes, Israel remains foremost in the world in the fields of science, medicine, technology, agriculture, and the military intelligence. There are more Jewish Nobel Peace Prize recipients than any other people. Did you know the cell phone was invented by Israelis? Their expertise has been used throughout the world in each of these fields. Indeed, what God promised to Abraham about his descendents has come to pass: “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Only God could have kept them, only God could have restored them, and only God could have equipped them to be a blessings in this measure to the world. It’s God’s doing. He gets the glory for it. When the church is a blessing to those around them, as it has been many times, it’s because they are piggybacking on that same promise made to Abraham as His spiritual children to bless the world around them.
If God couldn’t or didn’t fulfill His word to Israel, then how could the church ultimately count on Him to fulfill all the rest of what He promised? What would cause Him to change His mind about us if He had changed it about Israel after all those hundreds of promises and prophesies? Do we think that Yeshua’s death allows Him to wink at our sin so that once having prayed the prayer to “accept” Yeshua we will “stay saved”? “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15) is a black and white statement as I read it. He said it to Jews originally! They knew He meant the obedience of faith. Perhaps the reason for the demise of morals in our societies today is because the church thinks “once saved, always saved,” regardless of our compromise or lukewarm commitment toward Him, or our toleration of violations against His Word. A read through the prophets might cause you to rethink that.
For more reason to pray for Israel, there is a distinct correlation as to what happens to Israel and what transpires in the church. We have written about that elsewhere. Today, Israel has compromised with her enemy, naively expecting that if they cooperate with their enemies, they will leave them alone. Israel has allowed her enemy to take her land in exchange for a promise of peace. The church, I would say, has done the same thing. The boundaries of Israel and the boundaries of the church are greatly threatened as the enemy of both, who is the devil, seeks the elimination of both Israel and the Christians. It behooves us to pray for what God loves, praying believing, powerful, Kingdom authority-wielding prayers. What will happen to Israel, I assure you by the Word of God, will happen in the church. Israel needs our prayers as never before. And so does the church. Our prayers must be for both. God will have His way. The question is, who will be on His side? The world is and will turn against Israel. But we who are Yeshua’s are not of the world, but of the Kingdom of God. And, as we said above, we love what He loves, to which we must add, even when others turn away from what He values.
One final thought. God’s heart throbs for His people which includes His first born son, Israel. If you wish to be one with His heart, you will be one with His love for Israel as well as for His church — for His people, that we would become “one new humanity” (Eph 2:24,2 5) in Him! There’s a promise to those who pray for Israel. Don’t take this as about money, it’s about spiritually prospering in your life and your relationship with God. All the rest flows out of that. I leave you with this promise: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May they prosper who love you” (Psalm 122:6). Amen.
Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2009.
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.