The ‘Main Thing’ is Israel

My youngest daughter has just completed her sophomore year at a secular university. It took her almost the entire two years to find a church where she could worship that did not consider itself the “new Israel” and that did not believe God is utterly finished with the Jewish people.

As we prepared this issue of Israel My Glory, a friend gave me a few sage words of advice: “Keep the main thing the main thing.” The “main thing” is not how many dispensations there are. Nor is it the myriad of differences we could name between Covenant/Replacement Theology and Dispensational Theology. The “main thing” is what my daughter focused on when she asked each church she visited for its doctrinal statement. The “main thing” is Israel.

When I was a new believer, I spent many hours listening to preaching on the radio. Fortunately, we had an outstanding Christian radio station in my area, run by a devout believer who was careful about what he allowed on the air. One day I was listening to a well-known Presbyterian minister who was beginning a series on the book of Isaiah.

He began his message by telling this story. Many years ago, as a young preacher fresh out of seminary, he believed that all the wonderful promises God gave to Israel in the Old Testament now went to the church. Israel’s day had come and gone. Israel had sinned, lost its land, and was replaced by the church—God’s new called-out people. (An interesting quirk about this viewpoint is that people who espouse it still let the real Israel keep all the curses God promised but give all the blessings to the church.)

This young preacher’s wife, however, took the Bible a little more literally. She believed that when God made a promise, He kept it. So, he said, his wife prayed every day that he would come to a better, more accurate understanding of God’s Word.

One day he decided to study the book of Isaiah in earnest. Overwhelmed by the magnificent promises God had given to Israel, he began to analyze his view of God. What kind of God did he serve who would make such grand promises and then take them away and give them to someone else?

Finally, he concluded, he had to make a decision about God. Either God was (1) incapable of fulfilling the promises He made to Israel or (2) He was a liar and never intended to fulfill the promises He made to Israel or (3) He was still going to fulfill the promises He made to Israel. He chose number three.

As civilization deteriorates around us and the Muslim lobby in America and the West grows stronger each day, the world—including much of Christendom—would have us believe that the land on which the Jewish nation sits is either up for grabs or rightfully belongs to the Arabs. But the main thing is still the main thing. Israel is not the church, and the church is not Israel.

The fact is that God gave the land of Canaan to Abraham and his physical descendants via an unconditional covenant that has never been abrogated. Many people confuse the Mosaic Covenant—which required Israel’s obedience—with the Abrahamic Covenant, which did not. Because the Israelites did not keep the Mosaic Covenant, they forfeited the temporal blessings they could have had and were expelled from their land temporarily as punishment. But they still hold the title deed, given to them by God.

The New Covenant—which God also made with Israel—in Jeremiah 31 replaces the Mosaic Covenant, not the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant—land provision and all—has been watertight ever since God gave it in Genesis and repeated it throughout the Old Testament.

The God I serve is not impotent. He is not called God Almighty for nothing. If He could create the world in six days, part the Red Sea to allow 2.5 million people plus livestock to make it from Egypt to Canaan on dry land, rain manna from heaven for 40 years to feed His people whom He led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, then He certainly is capable of bringing Israel back to Himself spiritually and blessing the Jewish people physically with the land He promised them.

The Abrahamic Covenant was not based on Israel’s obedience but on God’s love: “Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them” (Dt. 4:37). Moses told the Israelites,

The Lᴏʀᴅ did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lᴏʀᴅ loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers (Dt. 7:7–8, emphasis added).

Moses warned them that if they forsook God, they would be scattered among the nations and persecuted (Lev.  26:14–39; Dt. 28:15–68). But even then, said the Lord, if they humble themselves and “accept their guilt—then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land” (Lev. 26:41–42). Why?Because God gave the land to the Jewish people “for all time” (Dt. 4:40).

What kind of God do you serve? If you have been grafted into the household of faith via the New Covenant, you have become a spiritual descendant of Abraham, not a physical one. And if God will not be faithful to His promises to Israel, how can you trust God to be faithful to His promises to you? Like the Abrahamic Covenant, the New Covenant is unconditional. It is not based on your continued obedience; it is based on God’s love for you (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:8).

Fortunately for us all, “God is not a man, that He should lie,…Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19). Then He must “make good” the Abrahamic Covenant,

the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac,and confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel for an everlasting covenant, saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance” (1 Chr. 16:16–18; Ps. 105:9–11).

And He also will make good the New Covenant that He made with Israel by physically delivering and spiritually regenerating the entire nation in a single day (Zech. 12:10; Rom. 11:26). After that, He will make good the Davidic Covenant by seating Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, on David’s throne to rule over the Messianic Kingdom, first for 1,000 years and then forever (2 Sam. 7:12, 16; Isa. 9:7; Rev. 20:4, 6).

Do not be deceived by the philosophies of men who “interpret” what God says in a way that makes Him say entirely the opposite of what is written in His Word. Keep the main thing the main thing. Israel and the church are not the same. What is the same is Almighty God’s unconditional love for them both.

The following passage was spoken and written by the prophet Jeremiah to the Jewish people, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If the God you serve is omnipotent, faithful, and true, this passage cannot apply to anyone other than national Israel:

“Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place [the land of Israel], and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.” For thus says the Lᴏʀᴅ: “Just as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on them all the good that I have promised them” (Jer. 32:37–42).

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