Christians across the planet have just celebrated Palm Sunday, the day commemorating Yeshua’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem in that pre-Passover week leading up to His crucifixion and resurrection. On the Monday of that week (Matthew 21:18) Yeshua declared that the Psalmist’s prophecy 118:22-23 actually spoke of how Israel’s leaders were about to reject the Messiah, the Anointed One of YHVH:
- Yeshua said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The Stone which the builders despised, this has become the capstone. This has come about from YHVH, and it is marvelous in our eyes!” (Matthew 21:42).
God’s heart and strategy may be on open display in the Scriptures, but the heart of man is sometimes slow to catch up.
- “Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of YHVH – that alone will stand” (Proverbs 19:21)
In the same way as some Jewish leaders despised the Messiah (while others gladly accepted Him – John 1:11-12), this same dynamic has occurred among the nations of the world regarding their attitude to the people whom YHVH has chosen to be the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8, 12).
- And Shimon blessed them and said to Miriam His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed – and a sword will pierce even your own soul – to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35)
The choosing of Israel by YHVH is not only based on His covenant love. There are strategic reasons for that choice. The Bible is chock full of teaching on this theme, and God is increasingly restoring biblical understanding about it in our day. This issue is becoming a plumbline for the body of Messiah and for the world, and even if a sword may pierce our hearts, we would do well to heed the word of the Lord and what it reveals about our hearts.
God’s choice of Israel causes stumbling among both Jews and Gentiles, yet that fact does not call Him to downplay His choosing. Blessed is he who does not stumble over Yeshua, His strategies and His choosing of the Jewish people (John 6:60-61; Romans 9:32; Luke 7:22-24).
Milestones and stumbling stones
The Scriptures sketch out three milestones about the Jewish people which, if not accepted, can also become stumbling stones. They are:
- The irrevocable gifts and calling of the Jewish people
- The separate and distinctive identity of the Jewish people
- Israel’s continuing priority status among the nations
These three milestones about Israel are basic keys to clarity in terms of understand the Bible and in terms of finding one’s own biblical identity and destiny.
For those who reject the Chief Cornerstone on this subject, God’s milestones can become millstones (1 Peter 2:7-9).
Milestone #1 – irrevocable calling and gifts
The Apostle Paul teaches that the calling of Israel and all the gifts to her (detailed in Romans 9:3-5 and throughout the Bible) are not subject to re-interpretation or ‘fulfilment’ or passing away. They continue as part of the New Covenant, which is in itself a Jewish covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Though many in Israel have not walked through Messiah’s gate into the sheepfold of new spiritual life and salvation, YHVH’s covenantal promises with the nation remain strong, and the fulfilment of all His promises (including His purifying discipline) will never be changed (Jeremiah 33:19-26).
These gifts include the essential Jewish nature and future of the Land of Israel, the centrality of Israel in the covenants, the firstborn status of the Jewish people among the nations, and the connection between the Holy Spirit and the Jewish people (the Glory mentioned in Romans 9:4).
This Apostolic teaching has been ‘despised and rejected’ by and large throughout the history of the Church of the Uncircumcision. Replacement Theology has offered itself as a satanic and counterfeit theology. Sadly, throughout church history there has been a ready and willing clientele standing in line to purchase these tainted goods.
Ø As the world turns against the Jewish state on the Jewish people, and as the heart of significant segments of the Body of Messiah grows cold toward Jacob’s children, these truths will help light the way and guide Yeshua’s followers to greater understanding and effectiveness in these Last Days.
Milestone #2 – separate and distinctive identity
There are some who view the Body of Messiah as a Country Club. The common feeling is that the Club is Gentile in make-up, in identity and in destiny. Yet Paul explains that another name for the Body of Messiah is actually ‘the Commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:12) and that it is the Gentile believers in the Jewish Messiah who step across the broken-down wall of partition onto the Jewish side (Ephesians 2:14-16). Those Gentiles who believe in the Jewish Messiah are grafted into a Jewish tree which still belongs to the Jewish people. It is part of their irrevocable gifts (Romans 11:17, 24).
Yet in the wisdom of God, YHVH has called the Jewish people to be distinctive, separate from all the other nations. Whether the Jewish people are at home in their Promised Land, scattered in the Exile, or ‘comfortable in the Diaspora’ as some would describe it, they are still distinct and different.
This was expressed eloquently by the Mesopotamian sorcerer Balaam who, being filled by the Holy Spirit of Israel, uttered an amazing prophetic word about the Jewish people:
“How shall I curse whom God has not cursed, and how can I denounce whom YHVH has not denounced? As I see him from the top of the rocks, and I look at him from the hills – behold, a people who dwells apart, and will not be reckoned as part of the nations” (Numbers 23:8-9)
God’s response to the rebellion of the Tower of Babel – mankind’s attempt to forge a false unity through uniformity of language and religion – was division. YHVH came down and divided the languages of men. His strategy of division was meant to eventually bring unity. For along with the dividing of tongues came the choosing of Israel – Abraham’s seed through Jacob would be the key to healing and rescue for the entire planet. Through Jacob’s seed would come the Davidic dynasty and the Messiah Son of David. Through the distinctive separateness of the Jewish people, mankind would be delivered from sin and rebellion.
This separate identity is ongoing. It will be part of Messiah’s kingdom rule in Jerusalem, centered around the Jewish people, their land and their Messiah (Isaiah 2:1-5). And this separate and distinctive identity will be honored and respected by the nations who walk in obedience and belief (Zechariah 8:20-23).
Milestone #3 – continuing priority status
The third milestone to be considered here is that of the Jewish people’s continuing firstborn status. The mouth of YHVH spoke out this divine guarantee (Exodus 4:22-23) as part of a Passover prophecy. The Apostle Paul includes this firstborn status in Romans 9:3 (“the adoption as sons”) as part of the ongoing spiritual priority and advantage that Israel continues to have (Romans 3:1-2).
This firstborn status involves priority for the Jewish people among the nations in the dealings of God. Based on the right of the firstborn son in Jacob’s deathbed prophecy (Genesis 49:1-3) and amplified by YHVH’s teaching through Moses (Deuteronomy 21:15-17), firstborn status means that the Jewish people receive a double portion of both blessing and discipline from the hand of YHVH Israel’s Father (Isaiah 61:7; Isaiah 40:2; Amos 3:2; Romans 2:5-11; Hosea 11:1-3). It means that they have a calling to be a servant to the nations (Isaiah 4:5-6; Acts 13:46-47). This includes teaching the nations and bringing the gospel message to them.
This dynamic ensures that the Jewish people will always stand out among the nations – whether at the United Nations, in their host countries, in the Middle East, or in primarily Gentile congregations. Obviously this outstanding nature may result in jealousy and persecution, as it has throughout the ages.
Here is where the blessing and cursing aspects of Genesis 12:3 come. For those non-Jews who are prepared to gladly receive this teaching and positional reality, there will be blessing and light. But for those Gentiles (even believers) who reject and disdain this teaching (this is the meaning of the first verb in Genesis 12:3 – meqalelecha means ‘the one who mocks/derides you, or treats you as a light and unimportant matter’), the results involve the withholding of spiritual and physical blessing along with resulting darkening of understanding.
Paul states that this priority status shapes the evangelistic mandate of Messiah’s body, in that the gospel is to go to the Jewish people proton (Romans 1:16; often translated as ‘first to the Jew,’ the Greek word proton actually means chiefly, especially or with priority).
God’s milestones challenge the body of Messiah and the nations of the world, calling for a response. Will our response be one of heartfelt obedience or will it be one of disdain and angry rejection?
Bringing balance to our own strategies
God is preaching for a verdict. He is sifting the nations based on their treatment of Israel, the apple of His eye. He is also sifting the body of Messiah using the same sieve, which is the Word of God.
As we attempt to understand God’s strategies in the Hebrew prophets, it would do us well to remember that future prophecies of co-operative efforts between reborn nations in the Messianic rule of Yeshua (like Isaiah 19:16-25) revolve around the same biblical constellations mentioned above. They are still guided by and interpreted by the irrevocable and unchanging plumbline of the Jewish people.
God’s unique priority with Israel His inheritance is not diluted or diminished by the future love and good fellowship between the reborn nations of Egypt, Assyria (northern Iraq) and Israel. When peace breaks out after Messiah’s return, the whole Middle East will be transformed. But God’s priority calling on Israel will never be altered or interpreted out of existence. It will be at the heart of that glorious future.
How shall we then pray?
- Pray for revelation of these three milestones to believers throughout the world and especially in the Middle East
- Pray for the Jewish people’s safety and salvation – that they would step into their divine calling
- Pray for your country’s leadership (governmentally and spiritually) for clear revelation, understanding and courage regarding the Jewish people, the apple of God’s eye
Your prayers and support really do 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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