"I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means!" Romans 11:1a
I just got back from my 4th trip to Israel late last night. As I type this, my body is on a different clock (so if anything seems unusual or is a run-on or seems non-sensical or zany or goofy or partially unintelligible or superfluous or a cacophony of paradoxical juxtapositions....well, just blame it on jetlag..).
I love Israel, and I love the people. And, I am bothered by some things. Specific things. Like doctrines that teach that God is done with Israel. I must admit that I don't fully understand the ways of God with the people of Israel, but I am beginning to discern more and more an insipient anti-Jewishness creeping into Christian theology and philosophy. This kind of thing has a long history (yes, even to some of the early church fathers), but can be seen to play out in various theological constructs in our contemporary setting.
I have often read the idea that the Church has replaced Israel in the economy of God. It kind of goes like this: "Israel was God's chosen instrument to display God's glory among the nations. Israel failed. Jesus came and fulfilled everything Israel wasn't. Jesus gave birth to the Church and kicked Israel to the curb." In some circles this is known as "replacement theology" (also known formally as supersessionism). My definition is lame and simple, but succinct enough to get the point.
I (have you noticed that I have started four consecutive paragraphs with the word "I"? Ok, I mean the letter "I"? That's probably bad....but this is a blog...my blog, so I guess I can say whatever I want. And, I turn off the comments section anyway b/c I can't respond to everyone who reads my blog and wants to comment. But starting four consecutive paragraphs with "I" is stupid...I'm sure you would agree. I'm tired.)....... love the Church. The nature of the Church being the "new man" of the two (Jew and Gentile) is one of the great mysteries of God's grace. But I still contend that Romans 9-11 is in the Bible to remind us that God is not finished with Israel, and that He hasn't cast them aside for good.
Our appreciation for Israel should be high. Let's name a few things: 1. our Scriptures are Jewish (almost entirely), 2. Messiah Jesus is from the Jews, 3. Israel is the olive root into which we are grafted (Rom.11:11-24), 4. they were the nation chosen in God's Sovereignty to be the people of God on earth, 5. Israel is the geographical location for our Lord's rule over the earth, 6. Our God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I am sure we could find many, many more, but there is an appreciable sample.
That said, it doesn't mean that we would approve of every move that national, political Israel makes. Nor does it provide some kind of carte blanche excuse for any type of injustice, or a need to take a back seat in the things of Jesus. Nor does it make the Church some secondary class of the people of God (since Peter tells the Church the same thing written of Israel in the Hebrew Bible - note 1 Peter 2:4-12). But while all of those things are true, we should still recognize that Israel is important to God by His own sovereign choice.
If God cast Israel aside, after making an everlasting covenant with her (note Abraham), who is to say He won't do the same with the Church? I think suggesting that Israel has been forever cast aside is an affront to the faithfulness of God. Paul even says as much when he states, "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins'." (Romans 11:25-27).
Going to Israel causes one to ponder some of these rich realities. For me, it causes me to be drawn in to a God who is so far beyond my conceptual ability. I swim in the vast ocean of His sovereignty and His mercy, and I pause to thank Him for the grace He has shown us in Messiah Jesus.