What does the Church think of Israel?
In a previous article, two key questions were posed.
Firstly, who are the descendants of Abraham who would inherit the promises of the land? It seems clear, from a literal reading of the Bible, that physical descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, i.e. the Jews, are being referred to here.
Secondly, was there anything the Jews could do to nullify, or ruin, this covenant? The answer seems to be no. We are told that the covenant was and still is unconditional and everlasting. But what is clear is that God holds the title deeds to the land and the Jews are the only tenants in the contract.
Leviticus 25:23, '... because the land is Mine and you are but aliens and My tenants'.
But before they could enjoy their tenancy, there was a slight detour.
All twelve sons of Jacob produced family lines, but all stayed within God's chosen nation. In fact they grew together and cemented themselves as a distinct people, the Hebrews, in the nation of Egypt, arriving as honoured guests of the Pharaoh, thanks to their rejected brother Joseph, but living most of their lives there as slaves to subsequent Egyptian rulers.
We read that around seventy of the Children of Israel made this journey into Egypt. They entered as an extended family, but left, 430 years later, as the Hebrew nation of around two and a half million. The name Hebrew probably derives from Eber, an early ancestor of Abraham, though it's unclear why. A more natural name for these people would be Abrahamites, or Abites, but who are we to question the peccadilloes of history? Another name for them was Israelites, which made a bit more sense.
This was the Exodus, the most momentous event in Jewish history and commemorated yearly at the Passover festival. It was here that God made His first great entrance in corporate human history, through the provision of a whole symphony of miracles and mighty deeds. He also introduced himself to Moses through the burning bush. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob revealed His personal name, the name passed down to us as Yahveh or Jehovah and translated as "I am who I am".
Moses led the Children of Israel to Mount Sinai and it was there that they were consecrated for service, as we read:
"Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, 'This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.'" (Exodus 19:3-6)
The decision was theirs. They could have turned down the offer. But they accepted their role and cemented a special relationship with God that has lasted to the present day.
"The people all responded together, 'We will do everything the LORD has said.'"
The relationship may have been made in heaven, but it was always going to be a bumpy ride.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation)