Christians and Israel: What Should Our Relationship Be to Them?

It is impossible to live in our modern world unfamiliar with the Nation of Israel, unless you are deliberately avoiding all contact with the outside world. At the time of this writing, there is only one nation in the world that has a national policy of support for the Nation of Israel: the United States. Every other nation is either condemning Israel or, at best, remaining neutral towards them, while fanatic religious terrorists attack her daily.

Historically, the Church has a fairly consistent record of condemnation for Israel. From very early in her history, the Church, including the Roman Catholic Church, many of the Reformers such as Martin Luther, and including current post- and a-millenialism, has attacked the Jews wherever she found them.

It is bewildering to me how Christians can claim to read the Bible (which begins with the Jewish Scriptures, and is written almost exclusively by Jews), and somehow fail to comprehend just how many times God says to Israel, “out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession” (Deut 14:2 NIV).

Do we believe that God tells the truth? Do we believe that he keeps his promises? Then how can we dismiss the promise he made to Abraham? “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you” (Gen 17:7, italics mine).

Everlasting means forever. It doesn’t end. If this is so, then we cannot ignore the immense significance that Israel has in God’s sight. We may not even fully understand the entirety of God’s plan for Israel, but from Genesis to Revelation, Israel is an intricate part of God’s plan for humanity.

It is true that most of the Jews have “missed” their Messiah. Most Jews today do not recognise Jesus as the Messiah for whom they have waited millennia. They do need him, now as ever. But they have a place in the plan of God that is unique.

Paul describes the Jews in Romans as the “natural branches” connected to God. We, the Gentile believers, are “wild branches” that have been grafted in by God’s grace. But, Paul warns, ” Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.”

In 1948, the unthinkable happened: Israel once again became a nation, after 1878 years scattered “to the four corners of the world”. God restored the land that had been taken from them nearly two thousand years earlier, in fulfillment of the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: “The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you” (Gen 35:12). Never before has a people-group been utterly separated from its homeland, but retained its uniqueness and identity with that homeland throughout countless generations, and finally been restored. It is a totally unique miracle. If there were any doubt about God’s purposes and plans for the Jews, one would think that witnessing this miracle on their behalf would silence all doubts.

If God still has a plan and purpose for the Jews, individually and as a Nation, the very least that we as Christians can do is support them in their pursuit of God. They are politically beseiged on every side, both from their Islamic enemies and their so-called “friends” in the West who have turned their backs on them. The United States is the only nation who, together with God, seem to find Israel worth defending. The question is, will we stand with God in defending his chosen people, or against him?

© 2002 Jason Friesen

Rom 11:17-29

If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.

You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 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, 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 so 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 on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.
(Rom 11:17-29 NIV)