Why Christians Should Care About the Land and the People of Israel
By Donald R. Ramsey
(Talk given at Beth Jacob Synagogue, Dayton, Ohio, USA, March 2000)
Christians have to face up to the fact that for the bulk of Christianity's history we haven't really regarded Israel for the right reason. The principal cause of that is that Christianity's focus is primarily on going to heaven. Therefore, the land of Israel fades in importance when you focus on going to heaven. Some assertions I make will not be developed in this talk, though I believe them and am perfectly willing at a later time to discuss them. I think that Christianity focusing on going to heaven is the incorrect focus, and I think that Christians should be concerned with Israel for several reasons.
If Christianity had retained its original focus, it would be the same focus that was given to Israel in the Sinai experience, where the Lord told then that he was setting before them life and death. Life and death, because as much as it comes to a shock to most Christians, the Almighty is very concerned in the eternal affairs of this earth, not only the hereafter. That was one of the reasons Israel was called initially. Israel was called to assist G-d in saving the nations and repairing the world and restoring the world to the place that was lost from the original creation.
So by focusing off in some future idealistic heaven, Christianity has ignored the idea that there is something very special going to happen in and through Israel in this world, and we need to return to that idea because both the Hebrew and the Christian scriptures teach that Israel is to be an important nation in the Messianic age and in the Messianic Kingdom. We must come to grips with that within Christianity.
Christians often ask why be concerned with the land of Israel when it's a spiritual endeavour that we are concerned about. I believe that there is a little secret that is tied up in the creation of humanity in the earth. At the creation of man, the Almighty bound the spiritual to the natural. In the account of the creation of Adam, we see that He created Adam as a natural being but He breathed into him the breath of life and he became a living soul, a living being, and in that act G-d bound the spiritual realm to the natural realm. And he never intended it to be broken. It was man's failure that broke that bond, and now we understand that Israel was called to repair that bond. We need to be concerned with what happens to Israel. If we look carefully at the scriptures, both the Hebrew scriptures, the Tanakh, and the Christian scriptures, we will see that out of all the nations G-d ordained the salvation of only one nation. And that was Israel.
For most of Israel's history and the Church's history, the Church thought it was its mission to save Israel, but I'm here to assert that no such thing was ever hinted at in the Christian scriptures. Israel's salvation is already ordained of G-d and G-d is not going to draw it back. We need to be concerned with what G-d does with Israel. Because G-d is not ever going to forsake Israel, either the land or the people and that extends to the Diaspora - Jews all over the world are very special and Christianity has been very slow to recognize that.
Most Christians do not know why G-d has called Israel. Israel was called out to be given the mission of repairing the world. The restoration of the world is going to be through them. That was the commandment then and remains the commandment and will be in effect during the Messianic age. I believe in a literal Messianic Age. Some may not, but that is alright, I'm stating my beliefs as to why Christians should be concerned with Israel, the land, and the people. I believe that Christianity and Judaism should have been closer together than they were and for various reasons they were not. We need to be concerned about that. But, what makes Israel special? This is a touchy subject even within Judaism, but Israel is the elect nation of G-d and that cannot be denied, and it is not going to change. It's the nation that G-d elected to do some things. We need to be careful in our approach, in how we view them and what they have been called to do.
In addition to the idea of repairing the world Israel was given the Law of G-d. The Law, the Torah was given to Israel to reveal to the world the holiness of G-d. The holiness of G-d is revealed through them. That was true then and it remains true today. It ought to be the task of every Christian to see that every Jewish person adheres to as many of the commandments as they can possibly keep. G-d gave some gifts in the calling of Israel. In the Christian scriptures we are admonished and exhorted by the apostle Paul in one of his letters that the gifts and the calling of G-d are irrevocable. Well if that statement is true then I have to believe that G-d's special relationship with Israel remains. It didn't go anywhere. We need to be aware of that.
Think of the things that G-d gave to Israel. In one passage of Christian scripture, we see that the question came up - what advantage do the Jewish people have before G-d? The answer to that question was, great in every respect. There is an advantage to the Jewish people before G-d that we should not neglect. And it may come as a shock to most Christians, but the salvation of the Jewish people does not depend on the Christian message. They already had a promise of eternal life and that [i.e. the Christian message] didn't bring anything new to them. They had the hope of the resurrection prior to Jesus and that wasn't the focus and we don't have to be concerned about that. Their hope of a resurrection remains until this day and we don't have to be concerned with that. What we do have to be concerned with is, are they, like ourselves, adhering to what is left for us to do according to what is righteous?
What is this great advantage that Israel and it's people and the Jewish community world wide have?
- To them were entrusted the oracles of G-d.
- They were promised the inheritance of the Almighty and that is an important fact that cannot be denied and they will take possession of that inheritance.
- They were given the glory of the throne of Glory.
- The covenants, and they have more than one, and they all remain today. This new covenant that we talk about as Christians was given to Israel (Jeremiah 31:31 and Hebrews8:8). It was never taken away.
- To them was given the Law, the Torah
- They were given the Temple service.
Let me point out something about this series of promises I am commenting on here.
This series of things was reduced to writing in Christians scriptures several decades after the death of Jesus. So they were still considered to be important, but Christianity since then has not focused on them. As scripture says, to Israel was given the promises. Promises to whom? To the Fathers, the patriarchs. That their descendants be as numerous as the sands and the stars. And that is important. To the forefathers of Israel, the patriarchs, were promised the land, the house of David and Israel. To them was promised the Messiah. And the Messiah is going to come. The Messiah is going to come to them. And what happens then is also important.
Israel was also promised the outpouring of the Spirit of G-d. And that is important, the covenant that was promised to them and eternal life, was promised to Israel. All of these promises were made to them by the Almighty. Then, if the gifts of G-d are irrevocable, what happened to them? We need to look at the mission of Israel and why it's important to us. Why it is crucial to us that Israel survives. It is given to them to be the savior of the nations in that age. And to them is given the task of the restoration of all things in the Messianic age. Even of the natural kingdom of the world, the animal life, plant life, ecology and environment, all will be effected and restored primarily through the nation of Israel and the Jewish community as a whole.
The mission of Israel is also to be a witness of the faithfulness of the Almighty. And we should not neglect that because that is a powerful statement. The fact that the Jewish community has not been obliterated in the world is due to the faithfulness of our Creator. And we should never underestimate that and never back away from it. As much as it may shock most Christians to learn, eternity is actually going to take place here on earth. The eternal sphere even in the Christian scriptures show heaven coming to earth. And the earth will be restored to the condition that was intended for it We must give attention to what scripture has said, and if all that is true, we should be very concerned about Israel and what happens to them.
We need to understand Israel better, we need to understand the people of Israel better and we need to understand why all the land of Israel is important, why the Torah and the law is important, even to Christians. We need to understand the Torah better and partner with the Jewish community to encourage righteousness in their community as well as our own. This is because Israel is what is ordained of G-d to survive. Christianity is not so ordained. This is an important fact to consider and remember.
Some Christians today, especially in the evangelical community, the Christian right as it is called, look at Israel and say, well that's where the second coming of Jesus is going to happen. That's secondary to the reason why we should care about Israel. That's not the right reason to be concerned about Israel. We need to be concerned about Israel because the Almighty, the Creator G-d, our Father has been concerned with Israel and will remain concerned. Also, the people of Israel are His people and they will always remain His people. The promises of G-d are for the land and the people of Jacob/Israel. He is not going to forsake them. He that guards Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. The Almighty will stand up for them. We also need to focus on the importance of Jerusalem in the eternal plan of the Almighty. Why since the days of David has Jerusalem been so central to G-d's plan? We need to understand our position in all of that a little better.
Learn as much as you can about the land, the people of Israel and also about Judaism to gain a better appreciation of them. Learn more about why the promises were given to them and how these promises will be revealed to the rest of the world. If the covenants and the promises G-d gave to the Jewish people are so important then it should be the desire of our hearts to understand what they received. The Torah was given to them to pass on to the nations and to the rest of humanity. The church was not established for any of this and we need to understand where we fit. I encourage Christians to consider what scripture has said, not just that Christian history began in Israel with the New Testament. Know that our Judeo-Christian history began many hundreds of years before with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the Torah. All of these things have an important bearing on what Judaism and Christianity have become, but without a greater appreciation of Israel and the people of Israel and the Jewish community in general, Christians are not going to fully understand their purpose in this world. It may come as a real surprise to Christians that the salvation of the world depends on the people of Israel, the Jews. Christianity thinks the responsibility belongs to someone else, but that's not true. I encourage you to keep these things in mind and be sensitive to learn why things happen as they do. The Jewish people, Israel and the nations, why they are there - for the purpose of redemption and that has not changed one bit from when Israel stood at Sinai. It remains as true today as it did then.