Hear Ye, O Israel!
Some friends have been asking me what I think about the international situation and the massive troubles brewing in the Middle East (not to mention our own neighborhoods). It should not be surprising that without the Love of God this is the kind of world we would have and seems as though we will have ‘wall to wall’. In an effort to try and keep from saying you need to pack up everything and head to a mountain top and live in a cave, let me just say a few things that come to mind. Something that’s tattooed my brain for many years now is how important it is to keep our eye on the country in the bull’s-eye of all the trouble, God’s chosen: Israel.
First of all let’s remember that they were chosen not because they were particularly religious people, not necessarily the most academic, not particularly God fearing, not uniquely profound or wonderful, simply chosen by the Wisdom of God for some undisclosed reason. They were actually represented, held together by the arms of one man, Abraham. He was a moon worshiper in Ur, who had no credentials as priest, not a perfect man, just a simple pagan at best, just a believer in something. God picked him out of all the people on the earth, cleaned him off, shined him up a bit and said, look you’re the only thing I have to work with, and I know you’re not, by any means, a finished product, but hey, I’ve got to start somewhere with this Adam problem, so I’ll just start with you. Abraham was the first foothold of the climb to Messiah. He alone was the beginning of ‘you will be my people and I will be your God.’ It simplifies things to look at the history of the Chosen by looking at Israel as simply the whole of Abraham’s work. They were chosen to reveal the Love of God to man, chosen through Abraham to be the blessing of the whole earth. Israel is the conduit through which Love would flow, the community where God would hammer out Messiah’s revealing until the coming of the full revealing in Jesus Christ. No matter how much they rebelled, no matter how sinful they became, Israel could not escape being in the pressure cooker of God’s plan. The Chosen, though undeserving, couldn’t shake the Love and Faithfulness of God. (Sound familiar?) They would misunderstand a lot of it, but God had made them His people and Him their God, period! Somehow in God’s plan, historically, each time He drew near, they rebelled even more. In the Wisdom of God, He was going to take that rebellion of Israel, their actual killing of the Son of God, and make something beautiful out of it. He would take their estrangement, and in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, reconcile the world. Imagine that! Only God could come up with such a plan. I’m sure we would have come up with different plan than a divine death, a death that demoralized Christ’s followers and encouraged His enemies, but a death that would bring an eternal Life.
Israel is simply, in itself, one prophesy given to Abraham: Messiah is coming and no matter how hard, how unlikely, no matter what His Chosen went through, Jesus is coming! After all, Jesus had been coming before the foundation of the world. God will see that Promise through in spite of Israel, through Israel, but not because of Israel. The Old Testament is not so much a story of individuals as much as it’s a larger story: a historical, gathering drama of the coming Christ.
Through the history of a people chosen by God, (a people rejecting that call for the most part), Israel became in every sense, His-story. In fact, seems that their whole history is about His-story, (Luke-24:44, And he said unto them, These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me.) and His story’s not done yet.
This revealing of a Messiah is also the beginning of the story of Someone that would eventually reveal God fully; Jesus who was Christ. This Christ was not only to reveal God’s nature and character, but astonishingly, He was also to reveal that He Himself was identical with the God He revealed! ‘I Am’ was being revealed by Jesus who simultaneously said He was the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me. Someone that said if you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father. Imagine! Not only that, but that Someone declared that the Father dwelled within Him and that He dwelled within the Father. Said that He was the actual Son of the Father, that He and the Father were One– One in essence and in action! Astonishingly, He declared that He was in us and we were in Him, saying He was to be the perfect Mediator between humanity and God. He was the One that takes away our sin and unites us with His Father. (Go figure, all that’s enough to take our breath away if we stop and think about it one word at a time, which we seldom do!)
In spite of them being unqualified, foolish, and unfaithful, Israel is who God chose to work with, and I believe He’s still working with them. I think if you want to know where we are in time and space, look at Israel. That’s a believer’s time-piece. Watching any other part of the world, keeping an eye on anything in the East, West, North or South is not the center of God’s plan. Israel’s little strip of land is ‘My people, I’m their God.’ No one else holds that place in His-story. Actually, the world’s quarrel is not with Israel, the argument is with the Love of God. Look at the recent rise in anti-Semitism. Whenever the movement of a culture is away from God there’s also a political movement against His Chosen. The world, like the Jews of His-story, does not like being in the same room with God, the intimacy of God (Emmanuel, God With Us) generates uncomfortable conditions for most, and actual rebellion by many.
That brings me back to my beginning; where are we? Well, it could obviously be the end, but I’ve lived through the so called ‘end’ before so I’m more comfortable just saying this: it could be over, may not be over. A couple of things I believe for sure. If this is the end then Israel is in for one ‘horrific’ fight, but a fight that necessarily requires the intervention of God. They will be the scourge of all the world, hated by all, abandoned, alienated, but a glorious end is in sight because His-story is tied to their story. Or, this may not be the end. Either way, Israel is in for a ‘horrific’ fight, but a fight again that necessarily brings in the ‘super-natural’ for the Chosen to stand. Whether we go on or if this is the end, a revealing will take place where there will be no mistaking the evident Hand of God. All the world will see once again: ‘I will walk among you, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.’ (Lev: 26-12) In either case, God will be revealed! The Chosen were scattered throughout the entire world, persecuted in very severe and inhumane ways, stripped of all possessions and identity, remarkably to be gathered together, surrounded by millions of enemies on all sides, placed in a land about the size of New Jersey, and they are surely in the bull’s-eye of the whole world of Anti-Christ. This people, Chosen, of all people, were placed in the pressure cooker of His plan to bring final reconciliation, Chosen to be in the ever so slow process of revealing His Son, and now Chosen again to be a witness to all the world of the Grace Covenant power of God. And, by that, Chosen to be the ridicule of the whole world. Now we will watch and see; we’ll be amazed, for this Chosen have a promise of not being allowed to go away, not permitted to leave the room occupied by them and God!
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