The People of Israel

“They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.”
Romans 9:4-5 NLT

Paul continues to write about his fellow Jews. And without a doubt they have had an extraordinary past, a heritage that continues into the present day. What other race of people has ever held together without intermarrying with other people groups? Paul himself claimed to be “pure blooded”, as we read in Philippians 3:5, “I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law”. Paul could trace his ancestry all the way back to Benjamin, who was the youngest son of Jacob and Rachel. Benjamin became the leader of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. His was a tragic birth, because through it his mother Rachel died. We read in Genesis 35:18, “Rachel was about to die, but with her last breath she named the baby Ben-oni (which means “son of my sorrow”). The baby’s father, however, called him Benjamin (which means “son of my right hand”)”. But by claiming to be “pure blooded”, Paul knew that no non-Jew had sullied the family line.

But how did the Jewish race become God’s chosen “adopted children”? We read in Deuteronomy 7:6, “For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure”. Perhaps God, seeing down the corridors of time, wanted a particular race of people into whom His Son, Jesus, would be born. The Old Testament details the lengths God went to, to hold His people together. Imagine what it must have been like, on that four-decade journey from Egypt to the promised land. The sea parting at Moses’ command. God leading the people with a pillar of fire by night, a pillar of smoke by day. Manna, a daily food supply. Water pouring from a rock. Surely an incredible display of God’s glory and provision, for many men, women and children who could have numbered as many as five million, numerically the population of Scotland, according to some estimates.

What do Christians today, pilgrims like us, make of the Jews? The nation especially chosen by God to represent Him on Planet Earth? We look back over history and see incredibly sad and cruel persecution of God’s people, much of it in so-called Christian nations. In recent memory, the Holocaust is just such an example. Even today, anti-semitism is rife in Western nations, and even in the UK, as recent political events have shown. But we need to remember that the Jews were, and still are, God’s chosen people. We know too that salvation comes through the Jews – Jesus said so, as recorded in John 4:22, “You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews”. Jesus’ statement was fully confirmed by His death on a Roman cross on a hill called Calvary, a few short years later. Jesus, the Jewish Son of God, was sacrificed so that we could be made right with God. Whatever the Jewish nation is going through, or doing, in the end they are God’s chosen people. There was a prophetic word spoken by a Jewish High Priest and recorded in John 11:50-52,  ““You don’t realise that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” He did not say this on his own; as high priest at that time he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation. And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world”. So we pilgrims pray for the Jews, and thank God for Jesus, because without Him, where would we be? Amen?

Dear Father. Thank You for Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. And we thank You for Your people, the Jewish nation, who have taught us so much. Amen.

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