I have previously posted the question, “Is Current Israel under Blessing or Curse?” In it, I explored what the Scripture has to say about Israel’s final redemption. No, I do not believe that Israel has come to that final redemption, as mentioned in Amos 9, but that in no way would give us reason to oppose Israel or the Jewish people. In this post, I want to further the thought by asking what is Israel’s ultimate purpose? I think that this might be a key component to better understanding both Scripture as well as our place as the Gentiles that have been grafted into (but not replaced) Israel.
There are four main roots that I think many of the modern day heresies and fads come from. When we readjust our perception of these four roots, everything else in Scripture seems to come alive. The four roots are an inadequate understanding of the Kingdom of God, the heart of God, the principalities and powers, and Israel’s purpose. God has given us a plumb line unto which everything else must measure up. If our understanding does not measure up to embrace all of Scripture, then the issue is not with our understanding. The issue lies at the foundation. That foundation is ultimately Christ. Yet, we come to more fully perceive Christ when we better understand the backdrop of the Old Testament, and we can better understand the progression of God’s Scripture.
It is said in Zechariah 2:8 that “whoever touches you (Israel) touches the apple of my eye.” That Hebrew word translated ‘apple’ is more properly translated as the pupil of the eye. When we mess with Israel, even in our doctrine, we are poking fingers into the very pupil of the eye of God. He takes His covenant with Israel extremely seriously. I would even venture to say that if we don’t know Christ Jesus as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then we don’t have a solid understanding of Christ.
God’s purposes with Israel might be one of the most controversial subjects in Christendom. On the one side of the spectrum are they that teach the church has replaced Israel. On the other side are those that are so Zionist that you could not tell them that Israel is in error. In between these two opinions are many varieties of beliefs, almost none of them being biblical. Our approach to Israel as Christians seems to be based on one of two things: arrogance or sentimentality. We either have great arrogance in claiming they are cast aside and we have replaced them, or we have only the most questionable sentimentality.
Those who have only sentimentality to Israel will not even consider the possibility of another exile. These are the same people that when you try to explain that they will be uprooted from the Land and we will take them in as refugees, they want to play the rapture card. “Well, you can stay if you want to, but I’m getting out of here!” This kind of statement really shows precisely how loveless and non-biblical so many ‘saints’ truly are. Though they have the Bible and every possibility to reason and understand and love, they instead choose convenience.
We don’t get to choose whether we stay or we go. Either we will all stay, or we will all go. The question that truly needs to be asked is our willingness to stay through the Tribulation. Are we willing to endure suffering at the hands of men – possibly even Jewish men – for the glory and purposes of God? Are we willing to, for love’s sake, put ourselves in a place of danger? If the answer to those questions is no, then there is absolutely no amount of reasoning that I can perform to convince you of God’s eternal plans and our place in those plans. But for those that are willing to lay down their lives and live in a manner that would display love and truth to an entire nation, there is still hope that we might be able to come to reasonable conclusions together.
Nothing more shows the core of who God is than His plans concerning Israel. Some have called this ‘the mystery of Israel.’ I’m not sure that Israel’s role in eschatology is a part of that mystery, as some claim, but instead the mystery is simply found in the scandal of a God that would choose one nation over all others. When we can understand that mystery, it makes a lot more sense as to why God would use words like, “election.” Election doesn’t necessarily have only to do with ‘national Israel.’ It has to do with the people of God, foreknown from before the beginning of time. During the Millennial reign of Christ, and during the New Heaven and New Earth, there appear to be a people that are outside of that choosing, yet are not destroyed in the Judgment of Christ.
This issue is the issue of nations. God doesn’t destroy all nations. Nor does He cast all people into the lake of fire. There are those nations and people that do indeed get cast into the lake of fire, but how can we reconcile the notion of a people outside of election that are still able to come up and worship God? This is part of the mystery. It comes down to a few subjects that we’ll look at: covenant, centrality of Israel, and God’s nation. These three factors help us to better understand what it is that we’re looking at.
God has revealed His covenant progressively. The first statement of it is in Genesis 3:15 – that a man will rise from the seed of the woman to crush the serpent’s head. From that initial statement, we don’t really gather a whole lot of information. We certainly don’t gather a bunch of messianic prophecy about a “greater than David” and how the messiah must be a priest and a king, and how Jesus will come twice, etc. Actually, the covenant made with Israel unfolds. It starts with a promise of a man to come that will crush a serpent’s head, and then eventually evolves into an eternal covenant that will be the redemption of all of creation.
I have absolutely no problem with saying that God had foreordained such a plan of salvation. We just don’t find the full statement and revelation of such a cosmic plan at the inception of Genesis. It progresses from that first statement to a promise that Canaan will be a slave to Japheth and Shem, and that Japheth will enter the tents of Shem (Genesis 9:25-27). It is after the incident at Babel, in the plains of Shinar, that God calls a man out of all nations in order to bless all nations (Genesis 12:3). That covenant is reiterated to Abram in Genesis 15:1-21, but the details are added that Abram’s offspring will inherit the land from the Nile to the Euphrates. That promise has yet to be fulfilled.
Now, before we go forward in the progression, lets deal with an issue. Paul quotes the promise given to Abraham. He mention that the word used for seed is singular, and not plural. This is a hint of one single man, Christ, that would be the seed of Abraham. We cannot take this knowledge and trade it for the whole progression of Scripture, though. The Jewish people today can equally claim that the wording represents Isaac, and not Ishmael. Yes, there is something to this, but no, the promise of Abraham was not solely for Christ. That is not to say that those with Jacob’s blood in them are saved according to the flesh. What it is saying is that we need to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Once again, the statement of “through your seed” is given in Genesis 22:18. The context of the statement is in God’s provision of the lamb instead of Isaac as sacrifice. When we take this to mean that Israel has been replaced, we err in being terrible exegetes of Scripture. The statement is still resonating the fact that “God will provide a Lamb.” This is actually the heart of the covenant. From before Israel, and before Abraham, God established this covenant. It is an eternal covenant about a God that provides a Lamb.
The covenant is an eternal covenant. The eternal covenant is not solely with Israel, but with all nations. God has chosen a specific people for Him to put His name upon, and all other nations must come unto them in order to worship the Lord. The covenant unfolds throughout the Scripture gaining more and more detail, until finally it culminates in the man Christ Jesus – the true Israel and firstfruit from the dead. When Israel was given the promises of being called the firstborn of God (Exodus 4:22), we find the New Testament writers referring to Jesus as God’s only begotten Son.
How is it that God can make a statement about Israel being His son, but then that title is given exclusively to Jesus in the New Testament? It comes down to the mystery of Israel, which is the mystery of Christ. In the book of Isaiah from chapter 40 onward for about 15 chapters we read about a servant of the Lord. This servant is the Messiah in some places, but is clearly spoken of as Israel in other places. What is being communicated is: As with Israel, so with Messiah; as with Messiah, so with Israel. The Gospel of Matthew also communicates this.
We find in Matthew the “prophecy” that, “Out of Egypt I call my son…” Read Hosea. That isn’t a prophecy; it is a statement. The statement isn’t even a messianic statement. It is referring to Israel being delivered from the hand of Pharaoh. How can Matthew make such a big blunder? As with Israel, so with Messiah. The Gospel of Matthew continues that theme all the way through. Jesus comes out of Egypt, gets baptized in the Jordan (symbolic of Israel crossing the Red Sea), and is led into the wilderness for 40 days (Israel wandering for 40 years). At the beginning of Matthew 5, Jesus goes up onto a “mountain” to speak to His followers. This is reminiscent of Moses upon Mount Sinai.
The corporate Israel is made manifest in the man Jesus Christ. He is the true Israel that fulfilled all of the purposes of Israel. However, there is a flip side to that coin: as with Messiah, so with Israel. As Jesus fulfilled perfectly all of the commands of the Lord concerning Israel, so too must Israel do. God awaits a time reserved when He will establish His King upon the earth for 1000 years that Israel will finally come into her purpose: to be a corporate demonstration of Jesus. As the Body of Christ, we have this mandate. We have this mandate to be Jesus unto the Jewish people. They will have the mandate to be Jesus unto the nations, for “You will be a Kingdom of priests, and a holy nation,” Exodus 19:6.
Though the covenant was progressively revealed through the Old Testament, it was ever and always the eternal covenant (Jesus slain before the foundation of the world). Israel rejected that covenant at Sinai, and placed Moses as their mediator in exchange for personal relationship of God. Because of that exchange, the nation forfeited for a season their call to be the priestly nation as God had intended. This is why the prophets call the eternal covenant “a new thing” and “a new covenant.” It isn’t so much that it is a “new covenant” as it is the eternal covenant rejected at Sinai. Instead, they embraced a covenant that could be performed. This is why it is said by the religious leaders of that new wine, “The old is good enough,” Luke 5:39.
It is according to the covenant made with God at Sinai that Israel’s destiny hinges upon. God still holds them accountable to that covenant, though the Gentiles have not been placed under such a covenant. It is said in Deuteronomy 4:1, “Follow them (the decrees and laws) so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land…” Israel has been given the land promised to Abraham, but not that full amount promised in Genesis 15:18. That Land is to be inherited only. Israel cannot come into possession of that Land by coercion or military power. Because the Land must be inherited, for Israel to remain in that Land they must remain faithful to the Lord their God. If they don’t remain faithful, they don’t remain in the Land.
It was said in Deuteronomy 6:25 that the obedience to the Law is considered their righteousness. Where Paul has said that we cannot be saved through works, God seems to be indicating that they can be saved by works. However, Paul is actually expressing the fullness of this text. It is not the works of the Law that make them righteous, but the faith behind those works. In remaining faithful to God, which is to continue to put their faith and confidence in Him throughout all generations, their works are considered righteous. This is why God continues by saying, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse – the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God,” Deuteronomy 11:26-28.
The blessing does not come when Israel upholds the Law, but when they live by faith. The curse does not come with disobedience to the Law, but when they reject the Lord their God. The two are connected in a way that cannot be separated. Ultimately, Christ is the fulfillment of the Law. He is our offering and sacrifice. He was the anointed unleavened bread of Truth to be offered as our meal offering. He is our peace offering – that through Him we have peace with God. He is our sin offering, that if we sin, we have propitiation (1 John 2:1). He is our Passover Lamb. He is the drink offering, of which we can take and say, “This is His blood…” He is the fulfillment of the 613 laws outside of the Ten Commandments, including the dietary laws. It is in Christ and through Christ – specifically faith in Him that leads to good works (James 2:14-24) – that we, and Israel, are to keep the Law.
The Law is not something that is a burden to fulfill as believers because Christ is our fulfillment. It is apart from faith in Christ that the Law becomes impossible. This is the eternal covenant. We have stepped into this reality as Christians – something that Israel has yet to do nationally. That is why the command is given through Paul that we are to “drive the Jew to jealousy,” Romans 11:11. This is almost a parallel of the statement made by Moses, “I will make you envious by a people that are not a people; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding,” Deuteronomy 32:21.
How is it that Gentiles, they that were despised by the Jews, are the ones to live in the promises and blessings given to them? It is a Divine revelation of the character of God. He will go that far, to cut off the natural branches and engraft wild branches, in order to call the nation of Israel to repentance. While we’ve been content to live beneath the glory of God, Israel continues to be unmoved and not jealous. God has established the covenant with Israel so that He might use them as a nation to all the other nations. Our call is to be a people that are no people – a pariah.
By being slapdash saints we rob God. Our purpose and calling is to be nobodies. But we have the same complex that Israel had: we want to be like all the other nations. We want to be somebodies. Are you willing to take up the purposes of God for the sake of a greater reward in the next life? This cuts to the heart of every grumbling. We don’t expect to be somebody. Instead, we are content in all things. It is for the lack of understanding this mystery that even the church has been quite flabby. We are unchallenged and bored.
What might actually be the solution is the very thing we have refused to consider: we are to be a priesthood to Israel so that they might be a priesthood to the nations. Instead of embracing this calling, we have coveted their calling. We want to be the big dogs. Maybe the parable of Jesus speaking of the prodigal son is more literally true than we know. The elder brother that has always been with the father says, “I have slaved in your household for all these years…” He refuses to celebrate with the father because he thinks he is lacking in reward for his “enslavement.” Who among us are exact replicas of that elder brother? Who among us don’t want to even consider playing second fiddle, even though we’re of Japheth, the elder? Is not all righteousness performed in submitting as the elder under the younger? Has God not said that the least shall be the greatest?
Center of nations
Ezekiel 5:5 says, “This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her.” I believe that the King James translates it as “set in the midst…” The Hebrew word speaks of “the middle.” Why is it that preachers insist on the ‘fact’ that “God’s not interested in real estate?” That isn’t what God says. He is very interested in this particular Land. He has even established that it should be the center of all nations. This is the pupil of God’s eye, at the center of all nations, to be a priestly nation to the nations.
God has chosen a specific place (Zion) for His rule. The classic chapter for blessings and curses, Deuteronomy 28, begins with the verse, “The Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” From there, it is reaffirmed that “the Lord will make you the head, and not the tail,” Deuteronomy 28:13. These are promises of God, and the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). Deuteronomy 32:8-9 doesn’t just imply, but blatantly states, “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is His people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.”
I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard this expounded. The very statement itself seems to drive something deep within me to repulsion. Would God be that specific? Would He truly set up the boundaries of the nations according to the sons of Israel? What does that even mean? It has been decreed that God would make Israel a priesthood. They are to show the nations the ways of the Lord. They are to separate the precious from the vile. It has been said in the prophets, and it is true unto this day, “Like priest, like people.” When Israel is disobedient to their God, the nations are disobedient and do not consider.
For God to redeem Israel is for Him to redeem the nations. There is something interwoven between Israel and the nations that shouldn’t be lightly disregarded. The way that Israel acts and interacts with the nations actually affects those nations. When she is a whore, the nations blaspheme the name of God. This is why it says in Ezekiel over and over that Israel has “blasphemed my name.” Even if there is not a technical blaspheming of God’s name by Israel, the very fact that they are causing the nations to blaspheme Him is likened unto the same thing in God’s sight.
We looked earlier at how Israel is called God’s firstborn in Exodus 4, and then the New Testament exclusively gives that title to Jesus. I want to give a thought for consideration. This is not a “thus saith the Lord,” but only an inclination. I am coming more to being convinced that Israel is God’s firstborn son as a nation. Christ is the God-Man. He is also the Israel-Man. We find in Christ Jesus the fullness of God, but also the fullness of who Israel is called to be. But in regard to the nations, and not simply individuals, God still calls Israel His firstborn son. When that nation has come unto salvation in Christ Jesus, and they are walking out their calling of being the priestly nation, all other nations, as nations, must look to Israel as their mediator. We have Christ as our mediator, and I don’t want to speak something against that. But as nations, and not mere individuals, the nations cannot come to God without Israel being their mediator to God. Israel will fulfill the position of mediator through the redemption of Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is part of the marriage of the Lamb. “The two become one flesh.” When there is that kind of unity of deity and humanity found in Israel, and the Church alongside her, the Bride of Christ is promoted (exalted) to ruling and reigning alongside of Christ – not under Him, but beside Him.
I don’t know that I have fully come to understand and appreciate what God has communicated in these quoted verses. There are too many possibilities for me to grasp what God has in store. Whatever is being communicated in God establishing Israel as the center of all nations, it is at the heart of Israel’s primary purpose. When we can come to understandthat mystery, we have come to understand the whole of eschatology. So much is stored away hidden in God that we cannot begin to even fathom what this seed will blossom into. The mystery of Israel is the mystery of Christ. As Christ, so also Israel. The impact of that statement alone can give us depth and insight beyond what I’m personally able to communicate.
God’s nation among nations
To conclude, Israel’s purpose is to be God’s nation among all nations. Just as Satan has taken his pick and placed his name upon Babylon, God has called out one man from all nations to make him a nation. This is not simply a political state. When God gathers Israel the final time, He will gather all Israel. Any and all of the Jews that are scattered abroad will be brought back to that Land. It is more than a political state – it is God’s nation and statement.
This has a few implications: priesthood, theocracy, display of God’s character, and His witness unto the four corners of the earth. In this is the summary of Israel’s call. Books and volumes can be written on those subjects alone to further understand the depth and magnanimity of God’s calling. “For you are a people holy unto the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession,” Deuteronomy 7:6. “Listen to me my people; hear me, my nation,” Isaiah 51:4.
“Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?” Deuteronomy 4:34. God has chosen this particular people above every other people. In order for us to even come into the faith we must be grafted into that root (Romans 11:11-25). God is jealous over Israel, and if we are to bear His name, we also must be jealous over Israel.