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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

3 Reasons the Biblical Story Requires a Focus on Israel

While many believers in Messiah are hesitant to think of the Bible as a work of literature, we cannot deny that a large portion of the books comprising the Bible contain narrative, relating key events and figures that are pivotal to the overall story of redemption conveyed by the Bible as a whole.

Because many of us see the Bible as the sum of its parts, it is difficult to see the bigger story being told--like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without seeing what the full picture looks like. Many who try to summarize the bigger story tend to lean on the pattern of breaking the Bible narrative into four parts: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.

While this type of summary may work for evangelism, it is important that believers in Messiah move beyond the basics and explore the deeper narrative put forth in scripture. If we want to understand the Bible as a complete work, it is important to focus on the story it tells about God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel. Here are three reasons why:

  1. God made a covenant with Abraham

The covenant between God and Abraham marks a major shift in the overall story. Humanity falls in Genesis chapter 3, and nine chapters later God promises to make Abraham into a great nation, that His descendants would live in the land He promised to them, and that all nations will be blessed through him. This last part is further clarified in Genesis 22, when God says to Abraham, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Genesis 22:18 NASB). With this covenant we begin to see the redemption story unfold, and Messiah is the ultimate fulfillment of Abraham’s seed. The focus shifts from our fallen state to the promises of God--and we learn that God always keeps His promises.

  1. Israel is the main character in the Bible

If we remove Israel from our conversations about scripture, then we ignore the covenants that God made with her which impact all nations. In fact, 70 percent of the times the word “covenant” is mentioned in the Bible, it is linked to Israel. Israel is the setting for most of the Bible’s key narrative events, including the birth of Messiah and the giving of God’s Spirit. Israel also plays a key role in end times prophecy, and when Messiah returns He will reign from Israel in Jerusalem.

  1. Yeshua (Jesus) was and is the Jewish Messiah

Yeshua has fulfilled many of the covenants made between God and Israel. Most noteworthy are the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, since He was descended from Abraham and was from the line of King David. The remaining covenants that have yet to be fulfilled are God’s promises to Israel concerning her land, forgiveness, and King, and these will be fulfilled when Israel embraces Yeshua as their Messiah. When Messiah returns, He will unite the Gentile believers who have been spiritually grafted in to Israel with the Jewish believers who already belong to Israel (Ezekiel 37:15-23 (NASB), Romans 11:11-24 (NASB)).

It is easy to see the Bible through a highly personalized lens, but we must remember that the scope of the story is so much bigger than just us as individuals. God has blessed all nations through one small nation, and the overall story of the Bible demonstrates God’s instruction and love for all us through His dealings, covenants, and His love for Israel. As Moses said in Deuteronomy 7:7-8 (NASB), “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers….” To truly understand the fullness of the Bible story, it is essential to see it with a focus on Israel.

Adapted from Mark Yarbrough's contribution to the book Israel, the Church, and the Middle East: A Biblical Response to the Current Conflict, copyright © April 2018 Kregel Publications. Used with permission.

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