Israel, their Messiah, and their God

October 4, 2010

On the first Sunday of every October, over 175 nations are joining together in prayer for the city of Jerusalem, the nation of Israel, and all her inhabitants. Millions of intercessors and worshippers of Jesus from many ministries across our nation and across the world petition the Lord to bring His Word to pass regarding this troubled land and people group. Yesterday, the ministry I am a part of participated in praying for Israel and Jerusalem as part of the regular 24/7 prayer ministry here.

Israel is not a side-issue in God’s plan of redemption for the world. In fact, Israel is perhaps the central issue in that plan. God’s choice in electing Israel forms the entire context of God’s eternal purpose in Christ.

As believers in Jesus, standing with God’s purpose for Israel is critical. But we must not merely stand with a people group on the shaky ground of sentiment or because we believe in the legitimacy of Israel as a political entity. We must base our loyalty to Israel on our loyalty to Jesus and His cross.

As Art Katz says in perhaps his most important work, The Mystery of Israel and the Church:

The demanding mandate of the church to the Jew cannot be performed on the basis of natural affinity. Sentimental and religious obligation, or whatever lesser thing presently motivates us to be disposed to the Jew, will not suffice. God is after the utmost spiritual authenticity in His church.

Yet spiritual authenticity only comes from spiritual depth. The insufficiency of superficial, ankle-deep Christianity will be quickly exposed as pressure mounts and deception abounds. The biggest storm of deception that will break the backs of many who profess faith in Christ today surrounds the identity of Jesus of Nazareth as God Himself. Even today, the subtlety of this deception has caused the convictions of many in the church to become mixed and diluted. But it is only through a church resolute in the truth of Jesus as the one true God that Israel will be provoked to acknowledge Him and welcome Him back to rule in righteousness from Jerusalem.

Many who have at least a little understanding of God’s purpose for Israel often focus their efforts of provocation in proving Jesus to be the Jewish messiah. It’s important for Israel to recognize Jesus as their messiah, but to acknowledge Him as YHWH, the LORD, the God of Jacob, is something that few Gentiles have wrestled with. Zechariah prophesies of a day where Jesus, the One whom they pierced, would be adored, worshipped, and honored as YHWH Himself (Zechariah 12:1; Zechariah 12:10-14). Israel will one day confess that Jesus of Nazareth is both their promised Messiah and their God, YHWH, in the flesh.

If the preaching of Jesus’ identity as the one true God of Jacob is not the central, pivotal point in proclamation to the Jewish people, we’re not walking in the footsteps of the apostles and presenting the entire truth of biblical Christianity to them. Jesus is much more than the Jewish messiah. He is the One that led Israel out of Egypt. He is the One that dwelt above the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies (John 1:14). He is the One that Isaiah saw when he declared he was a man of unclean lips (John 12:41). All of the prophets and the Law spoke of Him (Luke 24:44; Galatians 3:24).

If we think that this will be an easy task for the Gentile church, we have not sufficiently beheld the wisdom of God and felt the weight of what the apostle Paul calls a “mystery” (Romans 11:25). The Jews at Jesus’ first coming did not balk at Him asserting His messiahship as much as they did His claim to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In fact, this claim is what confused and enraged many Jews in Israel at His first coming (John 8:58-59).

The church will only authenticate the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6) to the Jew through the power of the Spirit and the wisdom of the cross. He will lead us not into humanistic triumphalism but into a life of self-sacrifice, humiliation, and affliction for their sake. God will give the church over to her cross to experience sweet fellowship with Christ in His sufferings. By doing this, the church will be a witness to God’s longsuffering towards the Jewish people. It is only in this way that the Jewish people – in the midst of Jacob’s trouble, their peril yet to come – will come to recognize that Jesus, their God, is supremely deserving of all of their worship, affection, and loyalty. Jesus alone will have the preeminence and receive all of the glory due Him from the Jewish people.

Israel will not be saved and restored to God except by a church that is intensely jealous for the glory of God. Such a church will exhibit the obedience of the Son by not acting prematurely out of its own compassion, or its own human desire to alleviate suffering. It will allow death to have its full course in order that there may be a resurrection from the dead that will glorify God. The church will not be able to enter into the redemptive sufferings of God unless there is an actual, real expectation of the glory that follows.
- Art Katz, The Mystery of Israel and the Church

May feel the weight of our calling as Gentiles called to provoke the Jews to actually enter into their own promises, ask for grace to embrace our cross in light of the coming trouble, and earnestly cry out to God in intercession for their salvation.

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About the author

Joshua Hawkins is a pastor, Bible teacher, and content creator for disciples of Jesus from College Station, Texas. He co-hosts The Apocalyptic Gospel Podcast, a weekly audio show exploring how a first century Jew would have understood the Gospel. He's also an all-around tech nerd and enjoys road cycling.

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