Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New Covenant: Jesus died for Israel and the Rest of Us

I don't claim to be an expert on the current State of Israel. This is an issue that gets people hot under the collar. I am not trying to stir up anyone's political or even theological juices. What excites me is the Living Word, and if you look there, you will find truth!

This week’s topic is about Israel. Tony C’s post yesterday reflects my own searching over the hot button issue of modern-day Israel. Many evangelical Christians are strongly asserting that we “must” support Israel’s claim to its lands in Palestine since in the Bible they are referred to as God’s chosen people and He gave them the land. Meanwhile, there are others (mainly left-wing, politically) who emphatically believe Israel has no right to Palestine, and consistently blame Israel for the violence in that area.

When I read the history of the Israelites, which you can find in the Old Testament, I have no doubt that God blessed the people of Israel and covenanted with them to lead them, provide for them and fellowship with them.  If you doubt the Bible, Israel’s history is well documented in the annals of other contemporaneous kingdoms.  One of my absolute favorite classes in seminary was Dr. Carol Kaminski’s Survey of the Old Testament. Another is Dr. Gordon Hugenberger’s “Messiah in the Old Testament.” 

Dr. Kaminski, through use of her amazing tool, CASKET EMPTY, explains the chronological history of Old Testament Israel, something that is difficult to figure out if you attempt to read the OT in order (the books are primarily in length order, not in chronological order). Dr. Hugenberger, on the other hand, unveiled for blind eyes that the plan for the Savior Jesus is evident even from the Garden of Eden.

Those were exciting classes for me! I finally understood what the deal was with all those kings, why the nation divided, and why Israel was consistently taken captive in the years after the nation divided: SIN and REBELLION. I mentioned the covenant earlier: a covenant goes both ways: God said he would do such and such, and Israel promised to do such and such. The problem was that Israel consistently broke the covenant over hundreds of years. They would turn back to God when things got too harsh and then rebel as their hearts again grew hard.

That is why Jesus is decrying the disobedience and murderous hearts of a covenantal people: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate.”

Jesus died for all the world, both Jew and Gentile, for every nation and every people group (John 3:16).  The New Covenant spoken of by the OT prophet Jeremiah (chapter 31) came to fruition through the death and resurrection of Jesus: “I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6). I believe salvation, desperately needed by each one of us to free us from the chains of darkness and death, is for all who look on that cross and believe.

Only God’s love can transform Israel, Palestine and the rest of this planet, one person at a time. So, when I am tempted to think I know God's mind about the Palestinian people, or the Muslims, or the Jews, or Americans for that matter, I am reminded of my own penchant for hatred or ignorance or misunderstanding, and I must return to the words of Jesus: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:43-48).

Image of green door in the old city Zefat, from wikimedia.org.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Were Hebrew children in the Old Testament required to make a one time "Decision for God" once they reached an Age of Accountability in order to be saved? No. There is no evidence of this requirement in the Bible. They were born into God's covenant, both male and female. Circumcision was the sign of this covenant for boys, but the sign was not what saved them. Faith saved them!
Rejecting the sign of circumcision, either by the parents of a Hebrew child or by an adult, male, Gentile convert, was a sign of a lack of true faith, and therefore the child or convert was "cut off" from God's promises, as clearly stated in Genesis chapter 17: