Israel the Beloved

There was a donkey by the name of Joshua. Joshua met a young filly in the desert named Lani. He loved this child, and adopted her as his daughter. He promised to love her forever and give her wondrous gifts. Lani was an extremely stubborn filly, constantly getting into trouble. All throughout her childhood, she would constantly disobey her father. She would then say she was sorry, but she'd go right back to being disobedient again. Then one day, something clicked. Lani decided to obey her father's rules. She became such a stickler for the rules that she was nearly impossible to live with.

Then one day, Joshua found another little creature, this time, a horse colt named Ivan. He took the colt in and adopted him as a son. Ivan loved his new father and was a good son, but he couldn't get along with Lani. "You're not really his son because you're a horse." Lani would say. "You're not really his daughter because you were bad!" Ivan would retort. "That's why he adopted me!"

Joshua quietly endured his children's bickering until he could take it no more. "ENOUGH!" he brayed. "Both of you, follow me to the top of the hill." When the children reached the hilltop, they looked out and saw vast stretches of lush pastureland as far as the eye can see. "I promised you a wondrous gift." he said to Lani. "This is it. This land belongs to me, and it has always been my intention to pass it on to you when you came of age." Ivan looked like he swallowed a frog. "What about me?" he asked. Joshua smiled. "Since you are now my son, you will share in the inherritance. Lani, you are to share this gift equally with your brother. There. That should leave no doubt that you are both my children." Since they both loved their father and understood how much pain their squabbling had caused him, Lani and Ivan became friends and lived side by side in their father's pasture.

Fathers love their children. At least, any good father does. They love their children even when they are bad. There is no amount of sin that can kill a father's love if it be true. Much less the love of Father God. We all know that Joshua the donkey would not exchange one beloved family member for another. Why would anyone think that God would do so? Yet that seems to be a strangely popular belief. We call it "replacement theology." It is the belief that God has disowned Israel and replaced it with the church. This is a very dangerous belief because it has resulted in more-than-significant anti-semitism. This weighs very heavily on God's heart. He has never lost His love for Israel, and if we turn against His chosen people, it hurts Him greatly. Furthermore, if we turn against the people whose history comprises our Christian herritage, how are we any better than they?

I'd like to spend this sermon covering some of the points of this problematic doctrine.

Galatians 3:29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Wrong interpetation: This verse indicates that being an offspring of Abraham is purely spiritual, precluding genetics.
Right interperetation: This verse does not preclude genetic decendants from their kinship. What it does do is open the family up to those not physically related to Abraham. Now this does not mean that all of Abraham's physical kin are guaranteed salvation, but then, it never did. Individual salvation has never worked that way.

Romans 4:13 It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.
Wrong interpertation: Abraham and his decendants will not inherrit the Earth.
Right interperetation: Oh yes they will. It says that they will do so by righteousness that comes by faith. Again, this is a promise that may be shared by gentile believers, according to Jesus' promise, but it does not preclude Israel doing so.

Matthew 21:43 "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit."
Wrong interperetation: Jesus declared that the Israelites would forfeit the kingdom of God.
Right interperetation: No he didn't. He said that the PHARISEES, to whom He was speaking at the time, would forfeit their place in the Kingdom.

Romans 2:28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.
29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.
Wrong interperetation: Being a jew is a matter of the spirit, not of nationality.
Right interperetation: This is a wonderful way for the gentiles to be included in the promises of Israel, but look just a little bit further down on the page...
3:1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?
2 Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.
Israel/Judah has a threefold purpose which is expressed in the preceding verse.
1. To present the word of God to the world
2. To preserve the word of God
3. To serve as a conduit for the living Word of God, Jesus the Messiah.

While it can be argued that Israel has already fulfilled these purposes, the bible clearly states that these purposes are not yet complete.

Revelation 7 has God commissioning 144,000 witnesses from the tribes of Israel during the tribulation. This cannot be gentiles because He lists them BY THEIR TRIBE. Gentiles don't belong to Hebrew tribes. How can God be finished with Israel if he still has this purpose for them and exclusively them? And in the Millenial Empire, Ezekiel and Isaiah (among others) have prophecied a physical Israel where people can still come to seek the Lord.

Ezekiel 48 gives us the borders for the "states" of Israel. These are very clearly for Israel, since they are in the land of Israel and given to each of the tribes by name. This has never yet been fulfilled.

Isaiah 19 tells of a peaceful alliance between Israel, Egypt and Assyria, with a highway running between Egypt and Assyria through Israel, and the Israelites being a blessing in the midst of the lands. This clearly requires a geographic Israel, and has never been fulfilled.

I could go on and on, but this sermon is already threatening to become longer than the piece it was condensed from. I would urge each of you to read my piece on replacement theology, if not for your own edification, for the sake of others with whom you may discuss this topic. And if you'd like to go further, I reccomend reading the message by Clarence Wagoner, whom I have quoted frequently.

My point in all of this: To proclaim God's goodness. Christmas is coming up soon, and we all know the story of Jesus' birth. We should bear in mind that the gift of God's Son is made possible because of Israel. It was Israelites who created Jesus' homeland, who built Bethlehem, who bore and raised our savior, and who became His apostles, bringing us His wonderful gospel.

Satan uses people as tools and discards them when they cease to become useful. God doesn't work like that. He created Israel to bless the world, and despite all that they have done in the past, He has promised to love them as he would a wife.

My challenge to the unsaved: Look at Israel. It is a picture of each one of us. We have all sinned and gone astray, yet God loves each one of us and has promised that while hardship will come, He will never leave us or forsake us once we have accepted Him as our Lord. He has promised his people wondrous things, and He will never renige on a promise. You can have this assurance, too, if you will only accept God's gift of love and ask Jesus into your heart.

To my fellow Christians: Understand that Israel is a wondrous gift from God to the world. We should be thankful for this gift rather than treating it with contempt, and we should treat the nation and people of Israel as family, because that's exactly what they are. Hosea tells us that Israel is the bride of God. If the church is the bride of Christ, then we'd better learn to love our mother-in-law.

Pastor Oren Otter
October 22, 2005