OUR DEBT TO ISRAEL
In His conversation with the Samaritan woman At Jacob’s well, Jesus told her:
“Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). By “ye” Jesus was referring to the Samaritans; by “we” He was referring to the Jews. Thus, He identified Himself with the Jews; he spoke as one of them. In the last book of the Bible, Revelation 5:5, Jesus is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” Judah is taken from which the word Jew is taken. It is important for us all to understand that there is the way in which Jesus is specially identified with the Jews; and that this identification did not cease with His earthly life, but it still continued by Scripture after His death, burial and resurrection-on into eternity.
It is equally important for us all to acknowledge the truth of want Jesus said to the Samaritan woman: “Salvation is of the Jews.” This is an indisputable, historical fact. Without the Jews we would have no patriarchs, no prophets, no apostles, no Bible and no Savior. Deprived of these, entire how much would we have left to us? None!
All other nations of the earth owe all that is most precious in their spiritual inheritance to the Jews. This is true of all of us – whether we be Arabs, Africans, Asians or Europeans, Russians, Americans or Chinese. We all owe spiritual debt to the Jews that cannot be calculated.
The Bible makes it clear that God requires the Christians of all other nations to acknowledge their debt to the Jews and to do what they can to repay it. In Romans chapter 11 Paul is writing primarily to Christians of Gentiles origin. In verse 13 he says: “I speak to you Gentiles.” He remains the Gentiles of the debt to the Jews and warns them against adopting an arrogant or unthankful attitude toward Israel. An analysis of this chapter will show that Paul uses the name “Israel” to refer to those who are Jews by natural decent and to distinguish them from Christians of Gentiles descent. In other words, he dose not use Israel as a synonym of the Church.
In Romans 11:30-31 Paul sums up what he has been saying about the debt and the responsibility of the Gentile Christians toward Israel (for the sake of clarity I have inserted the appropriate words-either Israel or the Gentiles-in brackets beside the pronouns):
For us ye [Gentiles] in times past have not believe God, yet have now obtained mercy Through their [Israel’s] unbelief:
Even so have these [Israel] also now not believed, that through your [Gentiles’] mercy they [Israel] also may obtain mercy.
In other words, because of the mercy of God that has come to us as Gentile Christians through Israel, God requires us in our turn to show mercy to Israel. How we shall fulfill this obligation? The following are four practical ways that we may do so.
First, we can cultivate and express our attitude of sincere love for Jewish people. Most standard forms of “witnessing” or “preaching” practiced by Christians do not reach the heart of Jewish people at all. In fact they frequently anger them and alienate them. But it is amazing how the apparently hart exterior of a Jew will melt when confronted by warm, unfeigned love. In nineteen centuries of dispersion among the other nations, there is one thing that the Jews have seldom encountered – and that is love!
For the Lord’s own sake, let us stop trying to make “converts” out of the Jewish People and let us begin to repay the debt of love we have owed them for so many centuries.
Secondly in Romans 11:11, Paul says that “salvation is come unto the Gentiles for to provoke them [Israel] to jealousy.” This is another significant way in which in which we can repay our debt to the Jews – by enjoying demonstrating the abundance of God’s blessings in Christ in such a way that the Jews may be made jealous and desire what they see us enjoying. These blessings should be seen in every area of our lives – spiritual physical, financial and material. But above all, they should be expressed in our corporate life of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Alas! Over the centuries the Jews have seen little among the Christians that would provoke their jealousy.
Mainly they have seen innumerable sects, all lying claim to the title “Christian”, criticizing one another, even killing one another – all in the name of Christianity. Nowhere has Christians disunity been more blatantly demonstrated than in the city held sacred by Christians and Jews alike – Jerusalem. Frequently, at the so called “sacred sites” of Christendom, representatives of different Christian sects have come to blows and shed one another’s blood, in proof of their orthodoxy and in defense of their shrines and their privileges. On more than one occasion, since the state of Israel came into being, missionaries from one Christian group have complained to the Jewish minister of religion concerning the representatives of another Christian group and requested that they be deported. All this is scarcely calculated to make the Jews exclaim “Behold, how these Christians love one another!”
Thirdly, the Bible exhorts us to seek the good of Israel by our prayers: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” (Psalm 122,6). To pray effectively in this way, we need to search out from the Scriptures the purposes of God for Israel and for Jerusalem, and then set ourselves to pray intelligently and consistently for the outworking and fulfillment of those purposes.
As we make this scriptural study, we will discover that ultimately, righteousness and peace are ordained to flow forth from Jerusalem to all the nations of the earth; and so the well-being of all nations is included in this prayer for Jerusalem and is depend upon its fulfillment.
A challenging, scriptural pattern of this kind of praying is provided by Daniel, who set himself to pray tree times daily with his window open toward Jerusalem. Daniel’s prayers so disturbed Satan and threatened his kingdom that he used the jealousy of evil men to bring about a change in the law of the entire Persian empire that would make Daniel’s prayers illegal. On the other hand, praying for Jerusalem meant so much to Daniel that he preferred to be cast into the lions’ den rather then give up his praying. Ultimately Daniel’s faith and courage overcame the satanic opposition and he emerged triumphant from the lions’ den – to go on praying for Jerusalem (see Daniel chapter 6).
From my own experience, extending over many years, extending over many years, I would like to add a personal comment at this point. I have discovered that making a commitment of this kind to pray for Jerusalem and Israel will definitely stir up a special measure of opposition from satanically inspired forces. On the other hands, I have also discovered that God’s promise given to those who do pray in this way will hold true: “they shall prosper that love thee.”
This is the scriptural pathway to prosperity-not merely in the financial or material sense, but as embracing an abiding assurance of God’s favor, provision and protection.
Fourthly, we can seek to repay our debt to Israel by practical acts of kindness and mercy. In Romans 12:6-8 Paul listed seven different gifts (charismata) that Christians should cultivate and exercise. The last one he mentions is that of showing mercy. I believe is it appropriate that we Christians exercise this gift not merely toward individual Jews, but toward Israel as a nation. Thus would in some measure expiate the countless acts of injustice, cruelty and barbarity that have over the centuries been inflicted upon the Jews- often in the name of Christianity.
Few Gentile Christians are aware of the deeply ingrained, but seldom stated, attitude of the Jews toward them. The Jews suffered persecutions in many different forms from many different peoples, but, in their view of history, their cruelest and most consistent persecutors have been the Christians. Before we reject this view as untrue or unfair, let us glance briefly at the kind of historical facts upon which it is based.
In the Middle Ages the Crusaders, on their way through Europe to “liberate” the Holy Land, massacred entire Jewish communities – men, women and children – numbering many hundreds. Later when they succeeded in capturing Jerusalem, they shed more blood and display more cruelty than any of Jerusalem’s many conquerors before them, except perhaps the Romans under Titus.
All this they did in the name of Christ and with the cross as they sacred emblem. (For this reason I personally am never happy to see any genuine presentations of the Gospel described by the word “crusade”)
Later still, in the ghettos of Europe and Russia, it was Christian priest caring crucifixes who led the mobs against the Jewish communities, pillaging and burning their homes and their synagogues, raping their women and murdering those who sought to defend themselves. Their justification for this was it was the Jews who had “murdered Christ”.
Again, within living memory, the Nazi-in their systematic extermination of six millions Jews in Europe – used as their instruments men who were professing Christians, mainly Lutherans or Catholics. Furthermore, no major Christians group, in Europe or elsewhere, raised their voices to protest or condemn the Nazi policy against the Jews. In the eyes of the Jews, multitudes of Christians stand condemned merely by their silence.
To undo the effect upon the Jewish people of these experience, and countless other like them, will take more then tracts or sermons. It will require acts, both individual and collective, that are manifestly as kind and merciful as the previous acts were unjust and cruel.
Finally, we need to bear in mind that one major fact in God’s judgment of all other nations will be their treatment of the Jews. In Mathew 25:31-46 we have a picture of Christ as King at the end of this age on the throne of His glory, with all nations arraigned before Him for judgment. They are separated into two categories: the “sheep”, which are accepted into Christ kingdom and the “goats”, who are rejected from His kingdom. In each case, the reason given by Christ is: “Inasmuch as ye have done it [or did it not] unto one the least of these my brethren.” The nations who show mercy to the Jews will receive mercy from God;
In a measure, this has already been proved true many times in history. For example, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Spain was the dominant nation of Europe, with a high level of culture, a powerful army and navy, and an empire that spanned both hemispheres. Bur within a century of expelling all Jews from her territories, Spain declined to a struggling, second-rate power.
In my personal memory and experience, much the same happened to my own motherland, Britain. Britain emerged victorious from World Wars retaining intact an empire that was perhaps the most extensive in human history. But in 1947 – 1948, as the mandatory power over Palestine, Britain opposed and attempted to thwart the rebirth of Israel as a sovereign nation with her own state. (Since I was living in Jerusalem throughout this period, I make this statement as an eyewitness of what actually took place.) From that very moment in history, Britain’s empire underwent a process of decline and disintegration so rapid and total that it cannot be accounted for merely by the relevant political, military or economic factories. Today, less than generation later, Britain like Spain, is a struggling second-rate power.
This represents, in part at least, the outworking of divine principle stated in Isaiah 60:12: “For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.”
God here promises Israel, and also warns all the Gentiles, that He will bring judgment on any nation that opposes His purpose of redemption and restoration for Israel. Therefore, in seeking and praying for the good of Israel, Gentile Christians need to remind themselves that they are serving not merely the interests of Israel, but even more those of their own nation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Derek Prince (1915 – 2003) was born in India of British parents. He was educated as a scholar of Greek and Latin at Eton College and Cambridge University, England, where he held a Fellowship in Ancient and Modern Philosophy at King’s College. He also studied Hebrew and Aramaic both at Cambridge University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In addition, he speaks a number of other modern languages.
While serving with the British army in World War II, he began to study Bible and experience a life – changing encounter with Jesus Christ. Out of this encounter, he formed two conclusions: first, that Jesus Christ is alive; second, that the Bible is a true, relevant, up-to-date book. These two conclusions radically and permanently altered the whole course of his life. Since then, he has devoted his life to studying and teaching the Bible.
His daily radio broadcast, Keys to Successful Living, reaches more than half the world and includes translation into Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Malagasy, Mongolian, Russian, Samoan, Spanish and Tongan. He is the author of over 40 books, over 450 audio and 150 video teaching cassettes, many of which have been translated and published in more than 60 languages.
Derek’s main gift is explaining the Bible and its teaching in a clear and simple way. His non denominational, non-sectarian approach has made his teaching equally relevant and helpful to people from all racial and religious backgrounds.