Have you ever wondered what the big deal is about Israel and the Jewish people? Are you confused about their place in modern world and in theology? Maybe you don’t feel anything special toward them–to you they are just another nation. Maybe the politics have confused you and frustrated you. But I want to make it very simple. God wants you to have His heart for His people. He is willing to give it to you. But you have to be willing to be insulted a little.
Here are 10 things to consider regarding the God’s heart for the Jewish people and why it’s important:
1. Jesus is Jewish, and His real name is Yeshua.
This may not seem like a big deal to you, but have you ever had a friend from a different culture whose name is hard to pronounce but you learn it because you love them? The name “Jesus” is Greek, a Hellenization of his Hebrew name. Yeshua has meaning; it means “Yahweh is our salvation and deliverer.” He loved His people. He was sent to save His people from their sins. As we seek to know Yeshua the Messiah, to understand His perspective and His teachings, we will be drawn to understand His language, His land, His culture. That culture still exists. There are nuances and symbolisms included in the stories and actions of Jesus. There is a reason bread was discussed instead of rice; wine instead of beer, almonds instead of pecans, lambs instead of goats. The Jewishness of the story is part of what helps us understand the point of these stories. Jesus presented the kingdom to the Jewish people first, and we have a record of how He did it. This is important because every story has a historical context and a way of understanding that will bring our relationship with Him into perspective. So even if we take communion with coconut meat and milk, it’s still important to understand the significance of yeast and unleavened bread, the importance of fresh wineskins and new wine. Even if we operate on electricity and charging cables, we still need to understand oil lamps. There is a Jewish context that is important not only from the New Testament, but from the beginning. I’m not saying Yeshua minds the name change, but I have started using His Hebrew name because…well…it’s His name.
2. Jesus came to fulfill the Jewish law, not abolish it.
He says “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.” (Matthew 5:17-18) We are meant to live righteously, following the law God gave to the Jewish people (the commandments) from the heart, as clarified in the teachings of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit inside us, with hearts full of thanks for God’s mercy. Because of Jesus, we do not have all the commands of the Torah to obey, like food codes (although we might be healthier eating this way), the additional laws dealing with temple code, role and sacrifice (because Jesus broke the temple by ripping the veil and reframed the temple as spiritual and not physical), and ritual purity and sin punishment codes (which have been covered by blood of Messiah). This is why the early Jewish community decided to not require circumcision of Gentile believers, for example, and why Judaizers (who demanded circumcision and eating kosher) were such a distraction for Paul and early Gentile believers. But, in terms of righteous living, we understand what God wants because He gave it to the Jewish people first and salvation through Messiah comes through the Jews. We were grafted into something that already existed.
3. Many prophecies given to Israel have not yet come to pass.
There are non-conditional promises (not dependent on the peoples’ obedient response to Him) of kingdom rule and blessing for this people that they have never seen fulfilled. That is, that God has promised things to this people group that have not yet come to pass (Such as Isaiah 60 and other prophecies referring to the eternal and unbroken reign of the Lord from Jerusalem and the and eternal receipt and peace of the land to the comfort of the people). And His word will be fulfilled. So we know we can expect this fulfillment of the land promises to Israel because of the unfulfilled promises in the prophets, like this one:
Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; And peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion the law shall go forth, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Micah 3:12-4:2
4. The Jewish people were meant to be a blessing to all nations (the Gentiles).
The avenue through whom all the families of the nations would come into God’s family as children; they are the longest lineage of those in covenant with the one true God. Their Abrahamic covenant is the Gentile’s lifeline. Gentile believers were meant to worship alongside the Jewish people as part of one building, with no walls of division between us. These verses are about the Gentile church’s unity with the Jewish people specifically, not simply unity among “Christians.”
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:11-22
5. Gentiles are heirs together with Israel.
Everything the Gentile church received, they received from a Jewish person. As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “Salvation comes from the Jews.” (John 4:22) Not only this but this was the hidden mystery revealed through the church, and specifically in Acts chapter 2, with the evidence of God giving the gospel miraculously in different languages–that through the Jewish Messiah, even their rejection of Him, that the Gentiles were invited into faith, through faith. The Jewish people, though they have inherited promises through Abraham, will also come into this New Covenant with Messiah only by faith (Hebrews 8-12).
In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:4-12
6. The nations, the Christian church, and we individually, must check our hearts and theology and repent of any hardness of heart against the Jewish people, past or present.
For most Gentile believers, it is a recognized truth. There are few people groups who have undergone such worldwide oppression and hatred as the Jewish people. It only takes a cursory glance through history to see the continuity of the devastation. When we look into the history of the church, the picture does not get prettier. We feel sympathy, but to we really understand the need for repentance and reconciliation. Though Gentiles were grafted into the Jewish nation by grace, does the Gentile church honor them or love them as their older brothers? Some Gentile churches do, but some still believe the church has replaced the Jewish people as “God’s People” entirely. But we must understand that to the Jewish people, “Christians” were European persecutors of the Jewish people. Even the idea of celebrating Christmas brings a jolt to a conversation with many a Messianic believer. What if I told you that using the name “Jesus” and “planting churches” in Israel is seen by many Messianic believers as insulting? Can you understand why? It’s because the Gentile church hurt the Jewish people. And the expectation that they would convert to Christianity is strange to them if Jesus is their Messiah. After all, a Messianic congregation is still called a synagogue, not a church. And Messianic believers do not consider themselves as converted Christians but fulfilled Jews.
From the writings of Paul we see that early on in the church, there was an arrogance among Gentile believers who believed the Jews killed Jesus (…as if the Romans did not?). This rationale meant that Jews were not considered “Christians” and Messianic believers were ostracized throughout history. Jews were also excluded and discussed as problematic during several of the church councils and were expelled from at least 94 places in the world including but not limited to Carthage, Alexandria, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Germany, Austria, Bavaria, Lithuania, Prague, the Netherlands, Russia, North Africa, USA (by order of General Grant), Germany, Poland, Russia, and the Arab Countries. It is important to consider the pain that came to the Jewish people through “Christians” accusations of them, culminating in replacement theology (that only the church are God’s people now), and a terrible antisemitism pouring out from the church, from early church fathers like Justin Martyr, Chrysostom, Eusibeus, Martin Luther, to even racist depictions on European church buildings called Judensau (mostly depicting Jews in humiliating positions with pigs).
This particular sculpture, is one representation of bestiality and Jews suckling a pig, an unclean animal to Kosher Jews. May we reject these public insults and may the embarrassment of this lead Christians to a heart of repentance on Christian forefathers’ harsh treatment of Jewish people and our false “replacement theology” suggesting that the Jewish people no longer have a place in the promises of God. To think that somehow God’s promises to the Jewish people have been replaced by the Gentile church should seem ridiculous in the light of the writings of the Apostles and the character of God.
7. God allowed the Jewish people to be hardened for the sake of the nations.
Unique among the nations of the earth, the Jewish people need only to come to an acceptance of their Messiah who has already come! The rest of the nations must be grafted in as a wild branch to a cultivated plant, a much more difficult task. Paul wrote for Gentile believers not to be conceited but to understand that just like Pharaoh, the Jewish people were hardened for the Gentiles’ sake, so they could be free from the law of sin and death. There was a time allocated for the Gentiles to be brought in and a time for that season to be complete. Jesus still intends to be received as the Jewish Messiah to the Jewish people.
After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.
8. God still intends to win the heart of the Jewish people so that they are ready for His return.
The fact that God’s callings and gifts are irrevocable is important here. He chose a people who are on a long journey of reliance and dependence on Him. If we look at the pictures God paints of Himself in scripture, we see the kind of love He has for His people, especially in marriage and parenthood.
“Go and speak to the people of Jerusalem, saying: This is what the LORD says: ‘I remember how faithful you were to me when you were a young nation. You loved me like a young bride. You followed me through the desert, a land that had never been planted. Jeremiah 2:2
He desires a people who will love Him as a love-struck bride loves a good husband. The wine and bread of the last supper was actually the betrothal process of Galilee. A man would offer his intended a glass of wine and if she took it, she was accepting His proposal. The man would then leave and prepare a place for His new bride, just as Jesus left and is preparing a place for us. He is coming back for us to take us there. (John 14) This is a culturally embedded message for His people. The new covenant was made to the Jewish people and extended to the Gentiles. We are invited to this marriage supper yet to come. And we will be there not as Jew and Gentile, but as one bride, body, and temple of God.
Even though the whole church is the bride, because we have received the covenant, those of us who already know and believe Messiah have a special role in this season. We are being invited to be a friend to the bridegroom to say, like John the Baptist,
“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:29
We prepare the way for the Lord to return. Our task is to announce the groom and wake the bride, who, in Galilean weddings traditionally would be asleep in the middle of the night when the bridegroom came! This is why we must understand the parables in light of Jewish culture. The Jewish bride sleeps. Who will wake her and get her ready for the groom?
9. God will bless the nations that bless the people of God and judge the nations that stand against them.
We know from the covenant God made with Abraham that those who bless His lineage will be blessed. And part of that blessing was an inheritance of land. We support Israel in their ownership and right of property as given by God. We also mourn the loss of life and property of the Arab peoples in the region of Israel and as we support Israel we also support the fair treatment, justice, and care for Arab people who lost land and were treated violently when Israel was created as a nation-state. We want to encourage care for the refugee and foreigner in their land based on God’s love for the nations and His heart for justice, understanding the repercussions of ignoring care for the widow, orphan, and sojourner (Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor. ” Zechariah 9:7). Believing that the promises of God supersede politics but nonetheless involve “nations” or “peoples” we want to align ourselves with His people and pray for the peace of Jerusalem and pray for our nations to be included in the peoples who bless and support Israel.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3
We know a judgement is coming, a time where the world will be harvested. The Day of the Lord will be violent and bloody, and will call into judgment the nations of the earth. God’s people, both Jew and Gentile, will not be under this judgment. But the nations who rebel against the Lord and His people will meet God’s justice. This is the same Day of the Lord that Jesus spoke of at the end of the age, when the harvesting angels will be sent out. (…and the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are angels. Matthew 13:39)
“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land…Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great. Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.” Joel 3:1-2, 12-16
As believers in Messiah, we do not fear this moment, but steadfastly endure through tribulation and trials and persecution until our salvation draws near and we are caught up in the air to be with Yeshua. For He said He is preparing a place for us to go be with Him and that He take us there. So we have no fear of the future. As for the people of God, we will be saved from this as those who put their faith in Messiah, who took judgement for us already. Hallelujah!
10. God can give you His heart for His people.
God’s heart for His people is one of a rejected bridegroom waiting for his wife’s return and a faithful father with a prodigal son. It is a heart that weeps for return. It is a heart that longs. And when the Father is ready, He will send His son to get His bride, the church, who is no longer Jewish or Gentile (Galatians 3:28). So we as the people of God are not ready for Yeshua’s return until the Jewish people are ready with us and we are communing and unified with them in Messiah. We will be gathered in with Yeshua for a wedding feast while God’s judgment is poured out on the earth. Readiness for the return of Jesus is at least in part, renewed repentance and ministry to the Bride, the Jewish People.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23:27-39
If you want to have God’s heart for the nations, and if your desire is to minister to His heart, He will take you eventually to His heart for His people. Because the blessing of all nations will come from their acceptance of their Messiah. We need watchmen on the walls to pray continually, giving the Lord no rest until He fulfills His purposes for His people and for Jerusalem. (Isaiah 62)
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” Zechariah 12:10
We see in the prophecies a picture of a King returning to the Mt. of Olives, splitting the mountain in two (Zechariah 14:2). We see a river flowing east and west from the throne. We see Him reigning with no sun or moon but as the light of the world, shining with His own glory (Revelation 22:5). And Jerusalem will be the pride of the earth. All nations will come and worship here, bringing their treasures to our King Yeshua. We will rule and reign with Him. And until that day comes where we see it in the physical new world, we can see it in the Spirit. We know that there is a lot to happen between then and now and so we put our hand to the plow and work the field of hearts. Soft hearts, hard hearts, cold hearts, warm hearts, rocky hearts, thorny hearts…sowing the seed until the great harvest to come. And we will see good fruit and prepare a pure bride, ready for her Beloved.
The Glory of Zion
60 “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4 “Lift up your eyes and look about you:
All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters are carried on the hip.
5 Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
to you the riches of the nations will come.
6 Herds of camels will cover your land,
young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
bearing gold and incense
and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.
7 All Kedar’s flocks will be gathered to you,
the rams of Nebaioth will serve you;
they will be accepted as offerings on my altar,
and I will adorn my glorious temple.
8 “Who are these that fly along like clouds,
like doves to their nests?
9 Surely the islands look to me;
in the lead are the ships of Tarshish,[a]
bringing your children from afar,
with their silver and gold,
to the honor of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.
10 “Foreigners will rebuild your walls,
and their kings will serve you.
Though in anger I struck you,
in favor I will show you compassion.
11 Your gates will always stand open,
they will never be shut, day or night,
so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations—
their kings led in triumphal procession.
12 For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish;
it will be utterly ruined.
13 “The glory of Lebanon will come to you,
the juniper, the fir and the cypress together,
to adorn my sanctuary;
and I will glorify the place for my feet.
14 The children of your oppressors will come bowing before you;
all who despise you will bow down at your feet
and will call you the City of the Lord,
Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
15 “Although you have been forsaken and hated,
with no one traveling through,
I will make you the everlasting pride
and the joy of all generations.
16 You will drink the milk of nations
and be nursed at royal breasts.
Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior,
your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
17 Instead of bronze I will bring you gold,
and silver in place of iron.
Instead of wood I will bring you bronze,
and iron in place of stones.
I will make peace your governor
and well-being your ruler.
18 No longer will violence be heard in your land,
nor ruin or destruction within your borders,
but you will call your walls Salvation
and your gates Praise.
19 The sun will no more be your light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun will never set again,
and your moon will wane no more;
the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your days of sorrow will end.
21 Then all your people will be righteous
and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted,
the work of my hands,
for the display of my splendor.
22 The least of you will become a thousand,
the smallest a mighty nation.
I am the Lord;
in its time I will do this swiftly.”
The Year of the Lord’s Favor
61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[b]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6 And you will be called priests of the Lord,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.
7 Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.
8 “For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”
10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.
Zion’s New Name
62 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her vindication shines out like the dawn,
her salvation like a blazing torch.
2 The nations will see your vindication,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
3 You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4 No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,[c]
and your land Beulah[d];
for the Lord will take delight in you,
and your land will be married.
5 As a young man marries a young woman,
so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.
6 I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem;
they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the Lord,
give yourselves no rest,
7 and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth.
8 The Lord has sworn by his right hand
and by his mighty arm:
“Never again will I give your grain
as food for your enemies,
and never again will foreigners drink the new wine
for which you have toiled;
9 but those who harvest it will eat it
and praise the Lord,
and those who gather the grapes will drink it
in the courts of my sanctuary.”
10 Pass through, pass through the gates!
Prepare the way for the people.
Build up, build up the highway!
Remove the stones.
Raise a banner for the nations.
11 The Lord has made proclamation
to the ends of the earth:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your Savior comes!
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.’”
12 They will be called the Holy People,
the Redeemed of the Lord;
and you will be called Sought After,
the City No Longer Deserted.