How balanced has the Church been?
How does God show His love to the Jewish people?
God hadn't finished with the Jews yet. One reminder is given in Jeremiah 31:35-37:
"This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar - the LORD Almighty is his name: "Only if these decrees vanish from my sight," declares the LORD, "will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me." This is what the LORD says: "Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done," declares the LORD."
So there was still a future for the Jewish people, after their exile from the Promised Land. But it wasn't the future they would have chosen. It hasn't been an easy ride.
Witness a typical conversation between a Jew and a Gentile Christian:
Christian: God really loves the Jewish people, you know. It says so in the Scriptures.
Jew: And how does He show this love for us? Tell me, I need to know.
Christian: Well, He has made sure that, despite all that the World has thrown at you for the past 2000 years or so, you are still here. You've survived. Isn't that proof of His love?
Jew: And how does that show His love for us?
Christian: By bringing you through the troubles. Look, you've outlived the Romans, the Greeks, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Nazis! You've triumphed over all of them.
Jew: Triumph? I see no triumph in the ghetto, in the concentration camp. How is this triumph? We may survive these things, but only to bring us through a new set of troubles? Why can't we be like other people? To be born, to be left alone in peace and then to die of peaceful old age, just like everyone else.
Christian: But you're God's chosen people!
Jew: Chosen for what? For persecution? For hatred? As scapegoats for the World's problems? If this is what being chosen is all about then you can keep it!
It's a hard one to answer, but you can appreciate the Jewish position. To be told of God's love for the Jewish people, then to balance that up against all the evil that has been directed towards these same people, seems to imply a God who is ineffectual and powerless to protect those He claims to love.
What is the nature of this love? It certainly seems to defy the usual definitions. To our eyes it's not a love of a man for his wife, protecting her from harm with strong arms, providing for her needs from the fruits of his labours. God is not seen to offer each individual Jew these kinds of protections and provisions, otherwise what went wrong in the Holocaust, or during the pogroms or the suicide bombings in modern Israel?
God's love for the Jewish people is not expressed in this way. In fact individual Jews, unless they have come into a personal covenant relationship with God, are treated no differently from any other individual. Instead we must look at the wider picture, at the Jewish people as a whole.
God deals with nations in very different ways from the way He deals with individuals. When we are told about God's love for the Jewish people it doesn't mean that an individual Jew has a higher value in his eyes than a Gentile. That would make a Gentile a second class citizen in God's eyes and that's not how He works! A Jew has no direct route to heaven; he has to qualify for the privilege in exactly the same way as a Gentile.There's no fast track to paradise for the chosen people!
God's promises to the Jewish people are exactly what it says on the packaging - God's promises to the Jewish people, not the Jewish individual. God's love for the Jewish people promises not individual survival, but national survival. This is an important fact and is key to our understanding of the whole subject.
Next week we will look at a few of God's promises to the Jewish people:
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Truth: And How it Can Find it Again)