One of the pillars of morality for the human race is found in Leviticus 19:11-12: “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am YHVH” (Leviticus 19:11-12). God connects robbery to dealing falsely and to lying to one another.
Robbing Jacob in Genesis
Most Christian sermons castigate Jacob as a thief and robber. But the biblical text teaches the exact opposite. Rebekah inquired of the Lord, who gave her a prophetic promise regarding her two yet-to-be born children: “Two nations are in your womb and two peoples will be separated from your body. One people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:22-23). The birthright of the first-born was prophesied over Jacob even before he came into the world (Romans 9:10-13). In later years Esau fulfilled the prophetic word by selling his birthright to Jacob his brother (Genesis 25:31-34), despising spiritual benefit and choosing the comfort of fast food instead.
In Genesis 27 Isaac disobeyed the prophetic word and ignored the oath sworn between his two sons. Instead Isaac tried to bless the son he preferred – Esau – but it was the wrong son. Esau had willingly gone along with the subterfuge, happy to rob his brother of that which rightly belonged to Jacob twice over. But God overruled Isaac and made sure that the patriarchal blessing rested on Jacob (Hebrews 11:20). After the fact both Isaac and Esau papered over their attempt to rob Jacob of what was rightfully his (Genesis 27:35-36).
- Let us not align ourselves with Esau’s false declaration, accusing Jacob and his people of robbery, for in doing that we would open ourselves up to the curse of Genesis 12:3 as well as to the spiritual dangers of a defiling bitterness and an ungodly immorality (Hebrew 12:15-17)
Robbing Jacob in our day
The same spiritual dynamic which was operative in Esau’s life often flexes its spiritual muscles among modern believers. These attempts to rob Jacob’s divine blessing from the Jewish people start by twisting (allegorizing) the original meaning of the Scriptures and then by transferring Jacob’s promises wholesale to Gentile believers in Messiah Yeshua. This is also the foundational premise of Replacement theology.
Sometimes these attempts are carried out in ignorance, even by those who love Israel. Let’s look at some examples and draw some conclusions.
“I want to bless my congregation”
Some pastors and preachers get very uncomfortable when they have to preach from biblical texts which stress the priority, blessing and restoration of Israel. Verses which talk about God’s strategic favor on the Jewish people are treated like hair-trigger explosive devices. Often biblical truth is sidestepped and justification sounds like this: “If I teach what is written to my people – that God loves Israel and has a priority strategy for her – my congregation will feel robbed. They will feel left out as second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God. Since I don’t want that, I will tweak the scriptures in question, ignoring the Jewish context and promises, and instead ‘spiritualize’ (allegorize) the promises as applying exclusively to Gentiles who believe in Jesus Christ.”
The majority of Christians witness this expositional robbery on a weekly basis. The Bible (written over 95% by Jews and over 90% about the Jews and their destiny) becomes a nose of wax shaped into devotional sermons about how much God loves the nations of the world.
- Truth be told, some believers do not appreciate or honor God’s strategies in choosing Israel. They are not trying to find their proper place as grafted-in wild olive branches on a Jewish tree (Romans 11:24 – “their own tree”). Instead they take clear blessings prophesied over Jacob’s children and morph them into prophecies divorced from a Jewish context and a Jewish destiny. Without mincing words, this is spiritual robbery.
The result of this methodology does not bring blessing for one’s congregation. Instead it leads to a weakening of spiritual discernment and acumen, and it results in spiritual narcissism and ill health. The preferred antidote is to accurately teach the scriptures about Israel and to show how God still plans for life from the dead to flow to the nations through Israel’s embrace of her prophesied calling (Romans 11:12,15).
“Applying Jewish prophecies to Gentile Christians is the most spiritual way of interpreting the Bible”
One of the first Fathers of the Church was the Samaritan Justin Martyr. In his Dialogue with Trypho (chapters 29, 123, 135) he stated that the true Israelite race is Gentile believers, that the Scriptures no longer belong to the Jewish people but to the Gentiles, and that God prefers Gentile worship to Jewish worship. These themes have wrapped themselves around the roots of Christian theology, and can even be found among charismatics and intercessors.
Justin’s perspective says that the disobedience of some Jews has obliterated God’s calling on Israel and that it has been transferred to the Gentiles. Yet the Apostle Paul strongly asserts the opposite – that the gifts and calling given to the Jewish people are irrevocable (Romans 11:28-29).
Teaching Justin Martyr’s perspectives runs roughshod over apostolic teaching. Paul exhorts the church in Rome at all costs to avoid heart attitudes regarding the Jewish people which border on conceit, arrogance, boasting and ignorance (Romans 11:18, 20, 25).
“Jewish kingdoms are carnal, but Gentile Christian kingdoms are spiritual”
Within three hundred years of the crucifixion, the Roman Caesars had established a Gentile expression of Christianity as the glue which would hold a tottering empire together. This superpower would become known as the Holy Roman Empire – the best and brightest hope for Christian theologians in its day. Yet these same theologians refused to countenance the restoration of the exiled Jewish people to their Promised Land, saying that such a hope was carnal and un-Christian. From this perspective, a Gentile empire is godly and spiritual, but a Jewish kingdom is ungodly and carnal.
Little by little, anti-Semitic opposition to Jewish restoration became a touchstone of orthodox Christian theology. Today many Bible teachers have great difficulty in allowing the biblical texts to breath normally– especially when these texts talk about Jewish restoration to the Land of Israel, Jewish Jerusalem as the world’s capitol city, and Israel as the axial platform for international worship and blessing.
One of the next prophetic paradigm shifts for the church will be the embracing of Israel the people and Israel the land as the strategic center of God’s kingdom on earth, with all that entails.
“Israel, Jerusalem and Zion are best understood as heavenly realities”
For 1,900 years Gentile theologians have by and large taken the words ‘Israel,’ ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Zion’ and robbed them of their biblical and exegetical meaning. Justin Martyr was one of the first to do so, saying that Gentile believers are the true Jacob and the real Israel. Augustine used the words Jerusalem and Zion as metaphors for the Church among the Gentiles. As Thomas Renna says in his article “Zion and Jerusalem in the Psalms” (in Augustine: Biblical Exegete; Frederick Van Fleteren, Joseph C. Schnaubelt, pp. 279-280), “Augustine had no interest in the historical or literal sense of the place Zion. The material site represented the church that was to come … Augustine often uses Zion to reflect both the individual Christian and the church at large.”
But the biblical record brings a different witness. God makes clear promises that He will restore the Jewish people to physical Zion and Jerusalem, that it will be the capitol city of the world, that Yeshua will physically reign from that city, and that God’s heart is close to that people at that city (Psalms 148:14; 149; 87). Therefore it is necessary for Bible teachers who love honesty and eschew robbery to hold to what is written and to let the Bible speak clearly and plainly on these issues.
It is actually quite spiritual to believe that God has a special place in His heart for Zion and Jerusalem (Psalm 48) and that He will actually establish world government over all the nations of the world (Amos 9:11) from Jerusalem, David’s City.
- To enter into deep and effective intercession for Last Day’s purposes means that we need to embrace with a full heart and great joy the physical restoration that He is bringing to Israel, Zion and Jerusalem (Isaiah 66:10-15).
Prophetic sanity in a crazy world
How can we keep sane in an insane world? One of the most important biblical touchstones involves keeping on track with what the Bible teaches about Israel (which is actually over 90% of the Scriptures).
- The antidote to prophetic confusion involves laying hold of the prophetic hope that God gives us in His word – and much of that hope centers in and around the Jewish people, the Land of Israel and the physical city of Jerusalem.
How should we then pray?
- Pray for spiritual leaders in your city and your country to receive spiritual revelation and revival about these issues
- Pray for yourself as you sit with God’s word – that He will deepen understanding and discernment about these issues
- Pray for God’s Spirit to fall on Jewish people worldwide, granting revelation about His covenant promises, His marvelous calling on Israel, and His incredible provision of atonement and rescue in Yeshua the Messiah
- Pray for the self-declared enemies of the Jewish people – for revelation of these truths, for repentance and for works in keeping with repentance on these matters
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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