Understanding God’s Purposes with Israel

Written by Jack Hayford
Understanding God’s Purposes with Israel

To talk about Israel and its place in our lives is an enormous theme. First, I want to predicate everything that follows by saying that when we speak about our commitment to stand against anti-Semitism and to take a pro-Israel stance, it is not because everything is always done perfectly by the Israeli political or military system. Neither is it because we hold anti-Arab attitudes-we don’t. God made a promise to Abraham to extend grace and mercy to Ishmael, his son with Hagar, and blessing upon Ishmael’s offspring (see Gen. 21:13, 18). All the Arab peoples come from that line. And that’s not just a theory; it’s authenticated everywhere. However, in terms of redemption, the Lord’s covenant promise to Abraham, “…your seed shall be called…” was regarding Isaac, his son of promise with Sarah (Gen. 21:12; 22:18).
God holds no hostility toward Arab peoples and neither should we; we’re called to pray for them. And we’re called to pray for Jews. Throughout history, the disposition of society has consistently leaned toward anti-Semitism. Both the historic commitment of our nation to Israel and the present environment have made it more of a national inclination for believers in the United States to see that as just a part of the package. But the decline of our willingness to support Israel will remove a believer in Jesus Christ and the Word of God from convictions that need to motivate our lives. Not toward a political crusade but toward a prayer crusade and a personal commitment—one  that is born out of understanding, not just blind allegiance. In this teaching, I want to give you the biblical background of that.

The heart of God is clearly committed to all peoples, but there is a distinct covenant commitment of His love and purpose for Israel. God does not love Jews more than other people, but He used them in a profoundly different way than any other people on the face of this planet. That includes all the various ethnicities that have existed historically and presently. We’re not talking about a couple of hundred nations, but at least 6,000 to 7,000 distinct ethnic or tribal groups. God deeply loves all of them. His Word says, “For God so loved the world…” He gave His Son for the redemption of the whole world, but that came about, as we will see, by a distinct plan.

The text we are looking at is from Romans 11, verses 1-2a, 22-12, 15, 17-18, 25, and 25. I encourage you to keep your Bible open for reference as you read. This passage incorporates chapters 9, 10 and 11 of Romans, where the Apostle Paul deals with the question of the Jews in the context of God’s love for and reach to the world through the Lord Jesus Christ. As the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul was speaking to the Romans, and this was the fountainhead church-right in the center of Rome’s political empire.

It’s appropriate that he’s speaking this to the Roman church of that ancient history. This is not the Roman Catholic Church as we would think of it. The Roman church was part of the small letter “catholic,” which, by the way, is the word for “universal.” Catholic refers literally the universal Church, the Body of Christ, of which all of us are a part, irrespective of denomination. The Body of Christ incorporates Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and all of us sitting here today.

“All Israel shall be saved”

When Paul wrote this epistle to the Romans, he wanted to be sure that basics were in view, and those basics are what we are after in this message. Let me read quickly with you.

“I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” Read this aloud, will you? “God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.”  (Romans 11:1-2a, 11)

In other words, the “jealousy” Paul speaks of would be to the people group to whom the privilege of stewarding salvation to the world was given because they did not accept that inheritance when it was offered to them. When any one of us discovers that we have given away or forfeited something that was meant for us, then jealousy becomes an understandable point. For example, that was the case with Esau when the birthright was taken from him by Jacob (see Genesis 27). That was, of course, done with conniving. While salvation has not come to the Gentiles by conniving, it has come by reason of forfeiture. Messiah was not accepted when He revealed Himself. But Paul makes clear that all of this was in God’s providence and purpose, and in Romans 11:26 it says “All Israel shall be saved.” In other words, there shall be an eventual ingathering among the entire people.

The ingathering of the Jews

“I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentles, how much more their fullness! …For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:11, 15)

Now, there are two places that fullness is mentioned in there. They will eventually be brought to their fullness. The fullness of the Gentiles is also mentioned at the very end of the text. This passage essentially promises that fullness will come when there comes a last times ingathering of the Jews. That is in motion today-in our times-through the Messianic Jewish movement.

There are an estimated 300,000 Jews around the world who believe that Jesus, or Yeshua, the Hebrew form, is the Messiah. Yeshua Hamachiah is Hebrew for Jesus Messiah. And they have opened to Him. This phenomenon began very slowly about the middle of the last century and has escalated profoundly over the last 15-20 years. In many ways, I have a lot of involvement with it. In fact, at The King’s College and Seminary we have a special Messianic studies program. I recently had 35 Messianic Jewish rabbis who participated with me in a Consultation of The School of Pastoral Nurture. These Messianic Jewish rabbis are pastors, but they operate within the environment and terminology of ministering to their own people.

“For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be?” (Romans 11:15)

In other words, if through the separation from God’s purpose, a pronounced and dynamic door was opened to the Gentile world, how much more will Israel’s recovery be as an outbreak of global revival and a sweep of great blessing? This is the time we’re living in.  And in that environment, we’re called to stance ourselves in a particular attitude.

Acknowledging our “roots”

And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. (Romans 11:17-21)

Verses 17 through 21 of Romans 11 says, in effect: You would be wise, then, as a Gentile believer, to note that your root system comes from the Jews. It would be both foolish and mindless not to acknowledge that there is an accountability in that relationship that holds you dutiful to care, to pray for, and to support them. Not because of their perfection (any more than God has loved you or me because of our perfection), but because it is of a divine order of things. We will look at that in a moment.

Then in verses 24-25, it says: “For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature,” in other words, he is talking about the Gentiles, “and were grafted contrary to nature into the cultivated olive tree…”- that was the Jews through their history as God’s people. In other words, you were not of the people, but now you’ve been grafted into the root system by which promise comes.  “…How much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion…”

And that’s the reason for this message: “Lest you should be wise in your own opinion.” It’s why we all need to take heed. “…That blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” That’s the fullness of the era which we call the Church Age, and it will come to its conclusion at the return of the Savior. If you have never been exposed to this  before, it is a highly significant subject, fundamental to understanding the Scriptures and the way of the people of the Lord. We are looking at the keys to understanding God’s purposes with Israel with a timely, wise, and biblically sensitive response.

The Jews in God’s plan of salvation for humankind

– Jesus made the categorical statement (John 4:1-26), “Salvation is of the Jews” (v. 22).

– The covenant made for humankind with Adam and Eve after the Fall (Genesis 3:15) was advanced through the covenant made with Abraham: “In your seed…” (Genesis 12-3; Gal. 3:8-9, 13-14).

In John chapter 4, we read about Jesus talking to a woman of Samaria, a half-breed Jew. Even she is surprised that He would speak to her: “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (v. 9.) Racial bigotry characterized that time, just as it has (and still does) across all humanity, apart from God’s mercy and grace bringing about a compassionate stance in people. The full-blooded Jews treated the Samaritans like they were dirt. You have thought there would have been some degree of generosity. The reason Jesus used a Samaritan in telling of the good person who cared for the man injured on the road to Jericho (Luke 10:33-37) was to indicate that someone who would have been loathed by those to whom He was speaking had more generosity than they. It was a confrontation by the world’s greatest Preacher of all history.

Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman is a great conversation. She raised the question, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”  She was talking about the mount up near Shechem in the center of that area. And Jesus replied, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:21-22).

“Salvation is of the Jews.”  Jesus was very pointed about that. He goes on to say that the issue isn’t what mountain you worship on; the issue is that you worship God in spirit and in truth. But it comes through the Jews. Jesus said that.

When you follow this trace line, it goes all the way back first to the covenant that God made with Adam and Eve in the Garden after sin took place-that a Redeemer would be sent (Genesis 3:15). It would be through the seed of Abraham, the father of the Jews, God said, that all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). As we have earlier noted, Abraham’s seed multiplied not only through Isaac, his son of promise with wife Sarah, and of whom God had said “in Isaac that seed shall be called,” but also through Ishmael, Abraham’s son with the Egyptian maidservant Hagar. Both the Jewish (Isaac) and the Arab (Ishmael) peoples came from Abraham, and while only Isaac’s seed was “called,” the blessing was upon all of Abraham’s seed.

That’s the attitude we hold toward the Arab world-the heart that we have. The turmoil that goes on, the things that are so embittering, the things that are shameful-those are not the things that should govern our final convictions. You can pass opinion on those things, but it should never deprive us of a heart of praying for all people-certainly those of the Arab world and Palestinians. Some may say, “But people are shooting rockets over there.” Well, there are people shooting guns here in the streets of L.A. too, and it doesn’t describe everybody. Even those people deserve our prayers.

So there is the beginning of God’s plan of salvation for humankind just from the basic seed and the growth to this hour. It comes through the seed of Abraham to fulfill the covenant with lost humankind that was made at the time of the Fall of Adam and Eve, and has been fulfilled in the Person of Jesus. When you begin the reading of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament, it says, “Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham and the son of David,” and it goes on. Jesus came by this line.

The Jews in their relationship with God and the land

– From the time of Abraham, the land of Israel (eretz yisreael in Hebrew) has been given to the Jews as “an everlasting covenant” (Genesis 17:7-8; 26:3-5; 35:11-15).

– Deuteronomy, chapters 28-30, reveal the conditions of obedience, penalties of disobedience, and promises of forgiveness and restoration regarding this covenant.

You can go to the texts listed here and read how the Lord’s promise is successively given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in those three places. When He gave it to Jacob, Jacob sealed that by building an altar. He poured water and oil on the altar and declared that by his worship of the Lord, he received the promise. And it was a covenant that this land is perpetually an everlasting covenant or promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And that three-fold cord will not be broken. It is God’s covenant with the land, notwithstanding the failure of the people.

Now Deuteronomy chapters 28-30 are a beautiful beginning and ending. The in-between is miserably horrible. And I don’t say that facetiously. In it, you see all three of these things: (1) the Jews in their relationship with God; (2) the conditions of obedience, of the blessing that would be upon them, and the penalties of their own disobedience; and (3) the promises of forgiveness and restoration that were made with the covenant. There are horrible things that God said would come upon them if they walked away from the promise He had for them. God was not saying He would make them happen, but that they would take place if people stepped out from the under the grace given to them.

The unfortunate disposition of humanity is that God doesn’t get much attention until something goes wrong and then suddenly people say, “If there is a God, why does He let bad things happen?” Some suggest there must not be a God because if there were, and He was all He was supposed to be, then certainly He could take care of the problem. If not by His power, then at least His love would be more gracious than it is. And if He’s love, why wouldn’t He exercise His power?

That idiocy dominates the minds of the culture and is usually a justification for unbelief. It’s unfortunate because it’s born out of ignorance of the divine order of things. The divine order is God’s order, and blessings are received when people open to and want that.

Anne Graham Lotz, an evangelist and one of Billy Graham’s daughters, was asked on national television after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, “Why does God let these things happen?” She said, “It’s amazing to me that our nation says it wants nothing to do with God until something dire happens.” You get what you choose. Do you want life without Him? That’s what you get. If you want life with Him, it makes not only a world of difference, but also an eternity with a difference.

The Jews have twice been “cast out” and then “returned to the land” by God’s grace

– The first: The Babylonian captivity and release (Jeremiah 25:1-14). Time: 606/586 BC to 536-516BC (captives/temple).

– The second: The destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD) and the return (late 1890’s until now) and reestablishment of the State of Israel (May 14,1948).

– Jesus prophesied the second of the these things, relating them to the season He would return: Luke 21:1-35 (v.24).

There were penalties and promises given with regard to this restoration. Twice the Jews had been cast out of the land. The first time was in the season of the Babylonian captivity. This was about 600 years before Christ. And they were returned. The text is in Jeremiah 25 where the Lord said, “They’re going to be in captivity for 70 years. But then I’ll bring them back afterwards.” A very fascinating fact. That progression into captivity took place over a twenty-year period of time, with invasions in 606, 597 and 586 B.C. And as you come from 606 through 586, that twenty-year span, then Jerusalem was consummately destroyed, but captives were taken at each siege that was laid to the city.

And 70 years from 606 is when the first contingent went back and started to rebuild the Temple, but successive contingents returned over a twenty-year period. It was nothing that humans could have choreographed. This was not done because somebody said, “God said 70 years.” But it’s profoundly significant that you have both the beginning of the captivities taking place, being completed, the Temple destroyed; 70 years after the captivity begins, the deliverance begins, and 20 years after the last captives were taken and the Temple was destroyed, people come back with the last group, and the Temple is rebuilt. It’s an amazing thing in the chronology of that which no one could have arranged. But it’s an indicator of God’s attentions to His prophetic words. They were cast out and returned.

The second return was one that began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which Jesus prophesied, and the return that began in the late 1890s. And because of persecution of the Jews in Israel and the trial that took place in France at that time, there was recognition of the Jewish community. But it came to its colossal and horrible fulfillment in the tremendous devastation that took place during the Holocaust of World War II. As that return began with the Zionist movement (led by Theodore Hertzel), and Jews began to return to their homeland, property was purchased over a twenty- to thirty-year period of time, and gradually the land began to be restored. But it did not actually become a nation until May 14, 1948.

Jesus had prophesied that the second return would relate to the season He would return. And as He mentions this in the Scriptures, He relates it to the restoration of the city of Jerusalem-that Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles, or the nations of the world, until the time of the fullness of the Gentiles is being realized. Remember, that’s when we come to the end of the Church Age.

On the Sunday following May 14, 1948, I was a boy of fourteen years old sitting in church and I remember our pastor talking about that and saying, “I never thought I would live to see the day this would happen, and now I think I’ll live to see the day of the return of the Lord Jesus.” Well, he didn’t. There’s nothing that says specifically the duration of a generation, and Jesus said it would be a “generation.” There are measures of “generation” in Scripture all the way from about twenty years (from the time of a person’s birth to the time they begin to have children) to a whole century. And “generation” is also a generic term that is broader than even a time reference. The point is, you cannot determine anything other than the season.

That’s exactly what the Lord Jesus said. He said, “It’s given to you not to know the day or the hour but the times and seasons you will be able to understand.” 1948 is more than 60 years ago, and we live in a time when there is increasing intensity in, global attention on, and hostility toward Jerusalem and the Jews. Zechariah 12-14 is crystal clear in saying that when all the nations of the world all gather against Israel, then look up because this thing is closing down.

You and I are living in a time when all nations (and this is probably the most frightening thing from the standpoint of being an American) will include this one. This means the judgment will come upon our nation as well as the others. I don’t say that for the sake of engendering fear but out of a sobriety of our need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Why? The more we pray for peace in that land and God’s grace surrounding it, the more time it gives for evangelism. The more it opens to the expansion of the promise that says that at the time of the fullness of the Gentiles, just preceding that, there will come an outpouring of God’s Spirit because of what is coming back among the Jews as they are opening to Messiah, and they are coming now.

Forty years ago when I first went to Israel, I asked how often does a Jew here in the land receive Jesus as Messiah. They said, “If one a year does, here in the land of Israel, we consider it an occasion for great celebration.” Today, there are Messianic Jews in the land. I’m not talking internationally-there’s more than that. In Israel, every week there are Jews receiving the Lord as Messiah. There are about 100 Messianic congregations scattered through the land. They face a lot of persecution, and they stand for the message of Yeshua Messiah.

Prayer for “the peace of Jerusalem” is a perpetual call to believers; Repentance and faith in Christ is a call to all people

– Commit to “living out” a “stand for Israel” – Psalm 122:6

– Receive God’s promises: grace, forgiveness, and “refreshing” which assure LIFE TODAY and PEACE FOREVER.

The prayer for the peace of Jerusalem is a perpetual call to believers. On our visit to Israel in 2002, Anna and I built four altars; they are in inconspicuous locations. Each time we go with a group, we will bring them with us and add a stone to the altars. What began as a little mound has now grown. And those locations gather because Jacob, in sealing the covenant with God, did that very kind of action. There’s nothing that directs that we do it, but I felt prompted by that to do it.

Jacob did it to seal the covenant that the Lord was giving them the land. And at north, east, west, and south points of the land there are places where we stand in the gap and make a wall at a location, praying and interceding. The Bible says as we stand in the gap, we make a wall, and so in these places, we’ve walled the land and said, “Lord, let Your grace and peace adequately sustain for the advance of the harvest in this land.” Because that means an advance of the harvest internationally, among people everywhere.  

Committing to live out a stand for Israel can be made right in your living room when you pray in your devotions. It can be lived in a congregation whenever intercession is offered. But not only is there a call to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, there is also a call to repentance and faith in Christ in this hour for all people.

What we should wisely conclude in light of these things:

“Repent, therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”  (Acts 3:19-21)

I want to underscore two words in that passage of Scripture: repent and refreshing. Repentance is not a call for some abject, fall-on-your-face, cry, kick-your-feet-and-hope-God-will-hear-you posture. Repentance is a change of heart or mind. It will sometimes bring tears because of a sense of grief over wasted time and foolishness. Real repentance is saying, “I’m going to set myself up to focus in a different way and in a different direction.” And all of us to some degree need to refine our focus and say, “Lord, I need to keep clear on this.”

These are significant times. There is a significant assignment. There is a stance in your life and a priority for you in the things of God. You may have drifted to some degree and today the Lord would say, “I have this message for you.” But the call to repentance is also a call to the enormous grace of expectation. God’s Word says that the times of refreshing may come.

And, to repent and refreshing, we could add renew: Today, loved, one, renew your commitment to pray. Renew your commitment to support Israel.

Would you say with me today, “I want the refreshing of God on my life. I want the refreshing of God on my city and nation”? Lift your hands and let’s just call out to the Lord now: “Lord, we come before You. Let Your refreshing come. Let the glory of Your goodness come upon us. We pray, Lord, for the refreshing of renewal, of availability to You. For obedience to You and Your ways, and we pray for an ingathering of souls, for people returning to You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

Copyright © 2010 by Jack W. Hayford, Jack Hayford Ministries. All rights reserved.