Confusion abounds over one of the most important themes in all of Scripture—Israel. Israel may refer to the current political state, the historic land and people of biblical history and prophecy, or even Abraham’s descendants through Jacob whose name was changed to Israel and whose descendants became the Jewish people.
What the Bible says about Israel
Understanding redemptive history and how God’s plan of salvation includes both Jews and Gentiles requires a proper approach to biblical interpretation that takes the biblical covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David seriously. In Genesis 12 and 15, God promised Abraham land, seed, and blessing in an unconditional covenant—a promise reiterated throughout Scripture and linked to God’s own trustworthy character.
Later, Moses served as the mediator through whom God communicated His commandments with the children of Israel outlining how to live in covenant obedience once they entered the Land of promise. In 2 Samuel 7, God promised David that He would establish His name in Jerusalem and His people in the land, that David would never lack a descendant to sit upon the throne, and that one from David’s line would be the ultimate everlasting King of Israel, the Messiah. Though Israel as a nation often disobeyed God’s laws and even worshipped other gods, and though they were even exiled for a time from the Promised Land, God always preserved a remnant who kept the faith according to His mercy and grace.
Paul clarifies that despite Israel’s failure to keep God’s Law, God’s covenant with Abraham cannot be invalidated (Galatians 3:17). The prophets consistently reiterated God’s promises that one day He would redeem His people Israel, restore them to their land, and establish Jerusalem as the central place of worship for Israel and the nations (Zechariah 14; Ezekiel 47).
Antagonism toward God's people through the centuries
Hatred of Jerusalem and the Jewish people is a hallmark of Satan and his false messiah (Daniel 7; Revelation 12). Tragically, much evil has been done against the Jewish people in the name of Christ. Early in the Church’s history, various teachings which can be described under the banner of Replacement Theology developed in order to deny God’s ongoing love for Israel and the Jewish people.
It has been suggested that the Church’s sad history with the Jewish people has been written in blood and punctuated with violence. Crusades, expulsions, pogroms, and even the Holocaust were perpetrated against the Jewish people by some who claimed biblical grounds for persecuting the Jewish people. However, Paul warned the Gentile believers of his day to avoid prideful attitudes toward unbelieving Jewish people (Romans 11:19-24), exemplified great compassion toward his fellow Jewish kinsmen according to the flesh (Romans 9:1-5), and sought their salvation (Romans 10:1).
Israel under fire today
Today, various denominations single out Israel for specific condemnations and criticize the Jewish state as uniquely guilty of so-called human rights violations. The BDS movement attempts to stigmatize the State of Israel as a racist apartheid society that should be penalized through boycotts, divestments, and sanctions. In the name of social justice for Palestinians, many have chanted death threats and made college campuses a dangerous place for Jewish students and faculty. Due to the enormous amount of anti-Israel propaganda, it is always important to fact check so-called news stories about Israel. Faithful interpreters of Scripture should also arm their people with helpful resources that avoid these common errors.
Recognizing God's love toward Israel
Any attempt to communicate the truth about Israel should reflect the sentiment expressed by God’s anointed king David as well as the sacrificial love for the Jewish people expressed by the ultimate anointed One, Jesus the Messiah. “And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name—and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land—before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations, and their gods?” (2 Samuel 7:23 NKJV)