By Judah Robinson, Contributing Writer
For many Christians today, the nation of Israel is a bit of a confusing entity. We know of Israel as a people mentioned in the Bible, a modern name for the land in which Jesus lived, and as a nation that seems to be in the news fairly often. But are these all the same Israel? And why do we hear about this Israel so often, either from our pastors or from the news anchor? Seeking the answers to these questions may be more important to your life and to your faith than you realize.
According to the Bible, Israel officially becomes a nation and a people chosen by the Lord when he makes an “everlasting covenant” with Abraham, the first of the three patriarchs, and his lineage (Genesis 17:7). Later, Israel is the new name given to Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, after he has a rather tiring encounter with God (Genesis 32:28). This name then becomes emblematic of the entire nation of people that would descend from his twelve sons; the nation that we read about throughout Scripture.
So what does this have to do with the modern day nation of Israel? Well, despite many trials throughout history, the people of Israel endure. After being driven from their homeland following the ascension of Jesus, the Jewish people would not return again as a nation until the early and mid-1900s AD. After World War II, the Jews were granted a homeland by the United Nations in the very same geographical area that was originally a part of God’s covenant with Abraham, the Israel we know today. The reality of their return after thousands of years was undoubtedly a miracle.
The question now is: why does this concern the modern Christian? A Jewish man, who also just so happened to be God in the flesh, named Jesus came in the midst of the Jews’ history and changed things. As prophesied by the Israelite prophets, he made it so that the Jews’ cultic religious practices could no longer bring them salvation. At the same time, he welcomed all non-Jewish peoples into God’s promised salvation as well, creating a new body formed from two very distinct halves. This body is the Church as we know it today, but it is not a bland, monochrome body. While the exclusivity of Judaism has become equality in Jesus Christ, the different groups and peoples that make up the body can still be distinctly seen, though now working together as one. The two greatest of these distinct parts are Jews and non-Jews. Without the proper recognition of the Jewish people, we are but half a body attempting to glorify the name of Jesus throughout the world with a major handicap.
It remains true that the political state of Israel does not only consist of Jewish people. However, the truth is that modern-day Israel was purposely established as an official nation for the Jewish people and only they can claim Israeli citizenship. Thus, we have a political state that does not necessarily consist of, but certainly is emblematic of, the people that God blessed and chose from the very beginning. We then are compelled to share the gospel, so that they too may accept their place as part of the body of Christ and thus prosper. Not only this, but every political, religious, and social move for or against Israel greatly affects us as God’s people and directly concerns God’s covenant promises. As Yitzhak Shamir stated in his 1982 essay, “Peace will be unattainable if Israel is weak or perceived to be so (due to its unusual placing in modern Middle Eastern culture).”
We then are charged with the responsibility to support “the root that supports you,” as Paul said, and love the Jews however possible (Romans 11:18). This does not mean that political Israel is flawless and that we should support everything they do; for they, too, make mistakes. However, we should greatly consider the spiritual and physical prosperity of the people to whom we are bound in Jesus.