[Image: Bridge, 2013, JA Van Devender]
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.
The news today [HERE] includes an item about the BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions) movement directed against Israel. It's the ancient problem of "whose land is it" cropping up again and its goal is to pressure Israel into giving more autonomy to the Palestinians as well as recognizing land rights for those who were displaced during the creation of the Israeli state.
I've written before on these pages (?) about the place of ethnic Israel in New Testament thinking. It is plain from Paul's teaching that they are being preserved as a distinct race because God promised Abraham and the patriarchs that such would be the case. It is equally clear from Paul's writings, that though his heart ached for his kinsmen according to the flesh, yet they had, as a race, abandoned their claim to God's special hand of blessing and their ancient role of witness to the glory, majesty and mercy of God. They sought to bridge the divide between man's fallen sinfulness and the righteousness of God through "works of the law" rather than through faith, the embracing of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God, in whom and through whom alone, righteousness before God is possible.
The history of the Jewish race since the Christian era dawned bears out this two fold decree: the preservation of the race and the denial of its previously privileged position as a witness to the Presence of God within its bounds. That privileged position shifted with the dawn of the New Testament. A new day and a new creation was born. A people constituted across socio-ethnic distinctions came into being. An incredible new race, a distinct people, with their own customs, their own speech yet expressed in the manifold languages of the nations from which they streamed, their own distinct ethic and the claim to the privilege of being the true sons and daughters of the Most High God.
This new people knew no geographic bounds and steadfastly refused to be identified exclusively with such borders. This people claimed no Temple Mount or Holy Place that constituted a "pillar" of their religion. Where they were there was their "temple" because there was where their God made Himself known with a witness beyond their own limitations. Their Lord had told the Samaritan woman that "neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father" (John 4:21ff) but rather the people of God would worship Him in spirit and in truth. The temple in Jerusalem was slated for destruction... its ruins would mark the ruin of the ethnic nation in its spiritual role as priest to the world and the Zion to which all the nations of the earth would stream to learn of God and of His ways. That role would pass to the new spiritual Jerusalem, and this new Jerusalem would, in a sense, now spread to cover the entire earth.
God is no longer to be identified with an intersection of cultural highways in the navel of the world, the Middle East. He is to fill the entire earth, every nook and cranny, and His people are not to view that land as having any significance other than that of blessed history. It was these hills that our Savior walked, it was on one of these hills that He was raised up and crucified, and it was from a tomb there that He rose from the dead. That is the only sanctifying significance of that geographic location now. There is benefit to walking the alleys and by-ways of present day Israel. It should never be viewed as a "pilgrimage" as if by that religious work a person becomes more holy... there is no sacramental grace to be found in such a visit... that kind of thinking is the way of ruin, it is to retrace the steps that lead to Israel's ruin in the first place. But, to walk and look and wonder... to envision the hills filled with hungry people being miraculously fed... yes, there is value there... but that' as far as it goes.
National Israel today abides under God's preserving hand as a witness to her fallen state. She is to be evangelized in the same way and to the same end as all the other nations. She stands with the Palestinians in this: they both need to repent of their blasphemy and believe in the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. They both need to lay their pretended claims to autonomy, to the land, to the blessing of their god, of which ever name they call him, and they need to turn to the One True God, the Trinitarian Truth, that stands in repudiation of Muslim Allah even as it does to the Jewish conception. There is only one God, there is only one faith, there is only one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, there is only one blessed fellowship with God through the Holy Spirit.
Politically I support modern Israel's claim to the land in the same way that I support present day England's claim to the Islands she inhabits. Both won their place by force... both displaced existing indigenous people, who dwelt there after they, at a previous time in history, had taken it by force and displaced others. National Israel is a nation among nations with just as much claim to the land as any human enterprise can have and on the same grounds. It is hypocritical in the extreme to single her out for political and economic sanctions based on such claims and ignore the stuff going on in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran and even our ally Turkey. There is ethnic discrimination throughout the Middle East and quite frankly, compared to how it is being expressed in the other nations there, Israel is a shining light of toleration. Politically I support her, but never, ever, do I do so based upon some supposed Biblical claim to priority. God has plans for this world in the progress of history and national Israel is, along with all the other nations, a part of those plans. There will come a day, please God, that many who are from the Jewish race will hear the Word of God with opened ears and their broken heart will remove their stiff necks and they will bow... along side their Palestinian brothers and sisters who hear and believe also... and truly the manifest mercy of God will be displayed to the gasping wonder of the powers and principalities of the age... as they rise, and arm in arm, enter the gates of the New Jerusalem, the Church of Jesus Christ, and leave all their old baggage behind.