Our roots, our future...
God chose a people and a place from all the nations of the world for Himself; a people to know Him, believe Him and understand that He alone is God. He chose a man called Abraham and made a covenant with him – a promise to do the impossible; to give him a son, to make him the father of many nations and to give him a land which his descendants would possess forever (Genesis 12 & 15). They were to be a people through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
Simple. Or so it seemed. “Love Me. Obey Me. Walk with Me” said God. But time and time again the people He’d chosen would reject and rebel against Him. God went to extraordinary lengths to keep His promise with the people of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and even though their relationship ebbed and flowed, God was quietly working out His plan.
God’s chosen people, Israel, were eventually overrun as they continued to position themselves outside of God’s protection and providence. Scattered to the four corners of the known world His people began to wonder if God had rejected them. How could His covenant still stand when they had been driven out of their promised land?
Then God began to speak. This time of a new covenant and of a Messiah, someone sent by God not just to rescue them but to reveal His plan for the nations.
“You will do more than restore the people of Israel to Me. I will make You a light to the Gentiles, and You will bring salvation to the ends of the earth...through You I will re-establish the land of Israel and assign it to its own people again”
(Isaiah 49:6 & 8)
“I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel...I will put My instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be My people”
The only problem was that this Messiah or (in Greek) Christ didn’t look like they expected Him to look. Instead of pomp and pageantry He came as a servant born in a stable. Instead of a military takeover He was crucified by the imperial forces that occupied their land.
“He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him”
Whether through stubbornness or unbelief God’s chosen people, on the whole, rejected God’s chosen One. “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). To the handful of God’s chosen people who saw first-hand that Jesus was who He claimed to be, to those who put their faith in Him, God restored relationship, sonship, with them. And from these few the early Church began to grow.
While some accepted Him, most did not. And through their rejection God began to fulfil what He had also promised through the Messiah – to bring a light to the Gentiles, those not of Jewish descent. Good news travels fast. Through Paul, Barnabas, Peter and others God began to “bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth” (Acts 13:47). During His earthly ministry Jesus said He was sent “only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). But as they began to reject what God was doing Jesus, through His disciples, began to gather in the Gentiles, just as He’d promised:
“I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also...there will be one flock with one Shepherd” (John 10:16)
“Jesus came and preached peace with God to those outside His covenant with Israel, as well as those who were part of that relationship...as a result, you [Gentiles] are no longer foreigners outside of God’s purpose; you are not aliens but children of God, fellow citizens with all who belong to Christ. Together you are God’s people and members of His household” (Ephesians 2:17-19, The Truth Version)
But what now for the Jews? Has God rejected them because they did not receive the Messiah? The apostle Paul asks this very question:
“Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But He wanted His own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves”
“At present they are enemies of the gospel, but only for your benefit. Yet they still retain God’s calling; they are still the objects of God’s love. He will still fulfil the promises given them through their forefathers. For once God has called a people and set them apart for Himself, He will not change His mind” (Romans 11:28-29, The Truth Version)
In short, God’s heart has never changed; His plans and purposes for Israel remain; He will not break covenant. “Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises He made to their ancestors” (Romans 15:8)
Paul uses an illustration to explain what’s happening:
“Israel can be likened to an olive tree; some of the original branches have been broken off. You non-Jewish believers were once wild olive shoots that have now been grafted into this tree. You are nourished by the sap that flows through your lives from the roots.
So you have no cause to boast or think that you have nothing to do with Israel. It is obvious that you do not give life to the root; the root gives life to you!”
(Romans 11:17-20, The Truth Version)
Many in the Church today lack a biblical understanding of Israel. The Church hasn’t replaced Israel - we’ve been grafted into it! Our life in Christ is nourished from the roots of what God established thousands of years before the Church even got started.
And He’s not replaced the Jews either: “If the Jewish people do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted back into the tree...If He could cut you out of a wild olive tree and graft you into the tree He Himself has cultivated, how much easier it must be for the branches that rightly belong to His tree to be grafted back into it! After all, it was originally their tree!” (Romans 11:23-24, The Truth Version)
God longs for His house to be full, for His flock to be one, for the tree He planted to display His splendour in all the earth.
“He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us...He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new people from the two groups”
Our prayer at Kingdom Faith is that the Church in the west would begin to pray for, reach out to and love the Jewish people both in Israel and in their locality.
Together as one new people, both Jews and Gentiles reconciled and united in the love of God and Jesus the Messiah, we can reach out to the world with the Good News of the Kingdom until He comes again.