What is the function of Israel?
Is there any divine favour for the Jews these days?
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We now arrive at the point of focus, the one single issue at the heart of the major conflict of the modern World. It doesn’t just divide Jew and Muslim or Palestinian and Israeli, but also Christian and Christian. It is the one issue where Mr. Roots and Mr. Shoots totally part company and Christian unity makes way for heated debate.
It is the question of The State of Israel.
Israel is a tiny country, the size of Wales we’re told. It occupies less than 0.5% of the land mass of its 21 hostile Arab and Muslim neighbours. It’s so tiny, that at one point it is barely 9 miles across, yet the World screams at it for being expansionist. It's also the World's foremost political and religious hotspot, giving rise to more United Nation resolutions than all other nations put together! It's both hated and loved by more people than any other.
‘How can this be? How can such a tiny place generate such heat?’ This is an understandable reaction for someone who believes that the State of Israel is the product of historical processes, in much the same way as the other 300+ nations of the World. This is also the reaction of “Mr. Shoots”, whose theological views lead him to the conclusion that the Bible has absolutely no relevance to modern day Israel.
There can be no compromise. It is impossible to hold to “Mr. Shoot’s” theological position and admit that the survival of the Jewish people and the formation of Israel have anything at all to do with God.
The formula is set in stone. If the Church is the ‘New Israel’, then the Jews of the ‘Old Israel’ are a people discarded by God and, although they have somehow survived through 2000 years of prejudice, hatred and extermination, it is just an accident. God is simply not interested in them; in fact, they seem to have survived despite His best efforts. They even survived the Holocaust, the biggest ever organised attempt at mass genocide, which seemed, against all the odds, to lead to the first ever re-emergence of a nation some 3000 years since it was last a sovereign state.
A historical accident? Sure. Whatever. Just as an atheist sometimes has to show extraordinary faith in his belief in the absence of God, so “Mr. Shoots” must exercise astounding faith in his position in the face of growing evidence to the contrary!
Be warned. If “Mr. Shoots” is forced to make even the slightest concession of divine favour to the Jews, then his whole argument collapses and a rethink is needed. If the Jews possess just a crumb of divine favour then perhaps the ‘Old Israel’ is still a part of God’s plan and what we are seeing with the Jewish people and Israel today, is a survival of a remnant, a particularly typical feature of God’s plans for mankind, whether through the prophets at the time of Elijah, or, more pertinently, the remnant chosen by grace in Romans 11:5. Take time to read this chapter of Romans and meditate on verses 11 and 12, which speak of the Jewish people.
‘Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fulness bring!’
“Mr. Roots” looks at the evidence around him and comes to a rather different conclusion. He believes that the Bible has every relevance to modern day Israel. He remembers the eternal Covenant that God made with Abraham, promising their continuance as a nation, their blessings to mankind (through Jesus) and their inheritance of the land of Canaan. He sees the exile from the land as a necessary outworking of God’s righteousness concerning the enjoyment of the land, but he also sees the other side of the coin. He looks at the survival of the Jews and the formation of the State of Israel and he sees miracle, after miracle, after …
The first will be next week …