The Spiritual Ideal Of Israel!
Today, we are going to start a challenging study that will make some of you a little uncomfortable. For others of you, this study will bring you a new understanding that you have been searching for, but maybe didn’t know it. It’s going to be fairly deep. It’s going to be fairly difficult. It may go against some things your denomination taught as proper Church doctrine. If you question the things I’m going to be telling you, that’s OK… just ask God to show you the truth. He will.
At the least, our study of Genesis 48, which is centered on Ephraim, is going to help answer for many of you, the question of why you have this growing interest, if not downright passion, for Israel and for Torah.
You see, for almost 1900 years, the Church has done its level best to ignore, even disavow, God’s plainly stated plan that in order for the gentile world…most of us in this room…. to be saved, we must be grafted into the spiritual heritage of Israel.
I can remember a pastor telling the congregation that when we accept Christ we are adopted, or grafted, into the family of god. True enough, I suppose, but that statement is like describing a piece of artwork as “interesting”. It is so commonly mentioned, that it really has no meaning other than to be gracious.
The issue, however, is that the Church has forgotten that “the family of God” is Israel; and that is certainly NOT the inference that is intended by most traditional church leaders.
What, you say?
Isn’t the real family of God the Church?
Yes, but what makes the Church, the Church, is that as disciples of Yeshua, we gentile Believers have been grafted into the covenants of Israel…not INSTEAD of Israel…. not as replacement for Israel…but alongside Israel. But, here’s the rub…it’s NOT about physical Israel, per se, rather it’s about a spiritual ideal of Israel.
The thing is this: both the Older Covenants and the Newest Covenant were given to Israel. Let’s remember that the promise of another covenant…AFTER the covenant of Moses on Mt. Sinai…was prophesied in a number of places in the Hebrew Bible, but probably most directly in Jeremiah 31.
“The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD.
“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”
Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NLT)
Now, pay close attention to me: just exactly WHOM is this new covenant going to be made with?
As Jeremiah 31:31 states: “…. when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah….”. There is utterly no mention of this being some universal covenant or of this covenant being made between God and gentiles. And, NOWHERE in Holy Scripture will you find such a suggestion.
Are you with me?
Gentiles…of which I am one…we have no part of this New Covenant, UNLESS we are somehow seen by God…declared by Yehoveh… as part of either the people of Israel or the people of Judah.
Now, I doubt we have anyone here that believes that the Church has replaced Israel; but, if we do, or at least you’re not sure if that is the case, then let me continue with Jeremiah 31 which ought to make matters crystal clear for you.
This is what the LORD says:
The One who gives the sun for light by day,
the fixed order of moon and stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea and makes its waves roar—
Yahweh of Hosts is His name:
If this fixed order departs from My presence—
this is the LORD’s declaration—
then also Israel’s descendants will cease
to be a nation before Me forever.
This is what the LORD says:
If the heavens above can be measured
and the foundations of the earth below explored,
I will reject all of Israel’s descendants
because of all they have done—
this is the LORD’s declaration.
Jeremiah 31:35-37 (HCSB)
Plainly, if the sun stops giving off light, and waves cease to occur in the oceans, and the stars disappear and the moon stops shining, THEN and only then will God cease to consider Israel AND THEIR OFFSPRING as His people…which is what “a nation before Me” means.
There is simply no way around all this. Replacement theology is error of the worst sort; because it is not a mistake, it is intentional deceit. Replacement theology…whereby the Church has replaced Israel as God’s people, and it is the Church that has received the New Covenant, is not the result of innocent error or ignorance.
Rather, it was a premeditated attempt to dishonor God’s chosen, Israel, to steal from them their inheritance (the covenants God made with them), and to answer a burning question that Believers had begun to ask as the decades rolled on after Yeshua’s death and the destruction of Jerusalem:
If Israel was coming back as a nation, where were they?
But, gentiles, we do have hope. We CAN be included in this newest covenant of Israel and Judah, and hundreds of millions…. perhaps billions…. of us have been included. But, not just because we’re a warm body, or we’re “good”.
You see, from the time of Abraham forward, God made provision that any gentile (usually called a foreigner or stranger) that wished to give up their allegiance to their pagan gods and become joined to Israel, was not only allowed to do so…they were welcomed to do so. And, they were to be considered first class citizens of Israel. No distinction was to be made between those natural born as Israelites, Hebrews, versus those who were born outside of Israel (gentiles) but had chosen to become part of Israel. Those who joined Israel had just as much right to partake in the inheritance of the covenants of God as a natural born Israelite.
However, I plead with you to hear God on this matter: outside of becoming part of Israel, there was, and there remains, absolutely no way to partake in God. Let me say one more time: not physical Israel, per se, but the spiritual element and ideal that is Israel.
Now, perhaps you’re thinking that sounds like so much mumbo-jumbo making a distinction between physical Israel and spiritual Israel: a rationalization to suit my purposes. Well, if that’s true, don’t blame me. Blame God, who, through Paul and others, certainly made the distinction between spiritual Israel and physical Israel.
What we’re going to find as we put the pieces of Scripture together, is that God has created and implemented a plan that is, in essence, a circle. He created physical Israel…. human beings called Hebrews… as His chosen people to bring the knowledge of the One True God, by means of the Laws and Commands of God, to the world.
He brought the Word forth from Israel, specifically from the Jews. Then because most Jews rejected the incarnate Word of God, Christ, He gave the duty of spreading the Gospel to the gentiles. Then after a long time, when the gentiles have spread the Word of God to the entire world, He has the gentiles take the Word back to the Jews. The Jews accept the Word, who is Christ, and they are saved. And, in this way ALL Israel is saved. It’s a big circle.
We’re going to take a look at several Bible passages that makes this plan of God perfectly clear. Let’s dive right in; go to Romans 2.
And if the Gentiles obey God’s law, won’t God declare them to be his own people? In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God’s law will condemn you Jews who are circumcised and possess God’s law but don’t obey it.
For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
Romans 2:26-29 (NLT)
Now, even though I have been using the word Israel…that we must be a part of Israel…Paul is using the word Jew in place of Israel.
Because, as far as anyone knew in Paul’s era, the Jews were all that remained of Israel: in their minds, they represented Israel. So to Paul, as with most Jews, Jew and Israel were one in the same.
And, Paul says that in order to be a true Jew, a true Israelite, you must be a spiritual Jew, a spiritual Israelite…being a physical Jew is the not the issue. In fact he says that it doesn’t matter whether a person is circumcised…. meaning that person has identified himself as a Jew…or whether he’s uncircumcised…meaning he’s a non-Jew, a gentile…because God’s definition of being a true Jew is the condition of one’s heart, not his flesh. It’s his spiritual standing with Yehoveh, not his genealogy that matters.
But, his spiritual standing based on what?
Based on the provisions of the covenants made with Israel…from which faith that Yeshua is who He says He is, and that He is God, and that He is able to declare you clean and holy, is the means to salvation.
And, just to really nail down that Paul is most definitely talking about Jews and gentiles when he speaks of the circumcised and the uncircumcised, and not just, perhaps, various Jewish people who now live in cultures scattered throughout the Roman Empire, or speaking of differences between various Jewish sects, we simply need to read what he says next in Romans 3:1.
Then what’s the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision? Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God.
True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful?
Romans 3:1-3 (NLT)
Because Paul makes such an emphatic point of saying that there is no spiritual distinction between people who trust the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he must now answer the logical question that any Jew who heard him speak those words would have asked him:
Then what’s the point of being born as one of God’s chosen people, a Jew, at all?
And, Paul says that being a physical Jew has many advantages, because it was to physical Israel that God entrusted the word of God. And, let’s remember, that the Word of God is not just the Bible…because Jesus is also called the “Word becomes flesh”. Jesus was a physical Jew.
But, He was also the ultimate spiritual Jew…the ultimate spiritual Israelite.
So, while there is a definite distinction, of course, between being a physical Jew versus a physical gentile, there is NO distinction as to who is a spiritual Jew (Israelite) EXCEPT as to the condition of the heart?
Those who trust Yehoveh, whether Jew or gentile, are spiritual Jews (spiritual Israel); those who don’t trust God, aren’t. My friends, even those among us who are by any means we have to identify ourselves, PHYSICAL gentiles, we are NOW spiritual Jews IF we have placed our faith in Messiah Yeshua.
Let me give you another way to think about this, by defining just what the “Kingdom of God” is. The Kingdom of God is people who have given themselves, willingly, over to the Lord. People who acknowledge the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the one and only true God.
But, more, it is those who acknowledge this truth by means of having faith in the Messiah God sent to be our substitute. Because, it is this faith that God counts as the sole identifying factor as to who His people are, and are not.
Yet, the entire legal reason that this is even possible is contained within the covenants that God made with Israel, and nowhere else. Spiritual Israelites are the sole residents of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is Spiritual Israelites.
Spiritual Israelites are Jews and gentiles who trust Yeshua as Savior. Spiritual Israelites are NOT Jews who have taken on a physical gentile identity in order to worship Christ, and Spiritual Israelites are also NOT gentiles who have taken a physical Jewish identity to worship Christ. Jews remain Jewish, and gentiles remain gentile-ish; the common point is union in Yeshua…a spiritual union.
Now, what I have said to you may well be more irritating to the Jews among us than to the gentiles. So, I need you to listen VERY closely to what I am saying: I am in no way asserting that I can take your heritage from you. I am in no way saying that something mystical happens to my body, which makes me physically Jewish when I come to believe in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua. What I am saying is that LONG before there WAS an Israel, God’s principles and laws and commands existed.
By definition these laws and principles and commands were spiritual in nature, right?
They existed only in Heaven. And, it was the Lord Himself who BROUGHT these spiritual laws and commands and principles from Heaven and gave them to Israel, and made them physical.
By giving these spiritual laws and commands to Israel, they took on a physical aspect. Do’s and don’ts. In other words, before any physical creature was given God’s laws, the laws were just divine ideals. Now, as they were given to a physical people at Mt. Sinai…. the Israelites…and literally written onto a physical piece of stone, these laws and commands and principles donned a physical form to them. BUT…their spiritual aspect didn’t cease to exist.
It is like Yeshua; He is the Word. He existed as a purely spiritual entity UNTIL He was born a baby from Mary’s womb. The Word donned a physical form when He entered the world to save it.
The whole point of being an Israelite…. being a Jew to Paul’s way of thinking…was to be a physical creature who embodied and trusted these spiritual ideals of God; these spiritual ideals that became physical and tangible laws and commands and principles.
Therefore, God sees ANY person who embodies these ideals as the truest form of an Israelite. Not in a physical way…but in a spiritual sense. And, just as the physical symbol of being an Israelite was circumcision, so the spiritual symbol of being a Spiritual Israelite is circumcision of the heart… Trusting Yeshua.
Turn your Bibles to Ephesians 2. Let’s read 11-13.
Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.
Pretty explicit! Gentiles by birth (meaning PHYSICAL gentiles) are foreigners (outsiders) to the family of God….the family of God being defined as Israel. But, now, these outsiders are brought near…. DECLARED citizens of Israel, members of the family of God, by the work of Christ. NOT physical Israel, per se, but the spiritual ideal of Israel.
The irony in all this, is that while, today, gentile Believers generally deny that when we are saved, we become citizens of spiritual Israel…back in Paul’s day, Jews were trying to require that when gentiles were saved, they had to become part of PHYSICAL Israel…that they had to become Jews by having a physical sign put into their physical flesh. And, this physical sign was circumcision.
Now, let’s put a little more meat on these bones. Turn a couple of pages to Romans 9.
Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children. For God had promised, “I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
Romans 9:6-9 (NLT)
And, here it says it in another way: every Israelite is not necessarily a part of TRUE Israel. And, as none of us would argue, not every gentile will be part of the Kingdom of God.
Of course, what did Paul just finish explaining true Israel, a true Jew, is?
It’s in the spiritual context of the ideal of Israel, not the physical in the sense of simply having a Jewish mother.
And, he repeats this in V8: its not the physical children, it’s the children that the promise refers to who are the true children…those who TRUST God in their hearts.
Let’s wrap up this part of the lesson up, with going to Galatians 3.
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.
Galatians 3:26-29 (NLT)
If you belong to Yeshua, Jew or gentile, then you are of WHO’s SEED?
And, heirs according to WHAT promise?
The promise God gave to ABRAHAM.
And, where is that promise to Abraham contained?
Within the covenant God made with Abraham… the first Hebrew.
Is ABRAHAM the forefather of the Israelites, or is he the forefather of the gentiles?
Of course, he’s the forefather of the Israelites.
All of our hope, as gentiles, is wrapped up in becoming spiritual Israelites…. which we do by trusting Christ…. so that we might become partakers in the promises…or better, covenants…. made between God and THEM. And, it’s the Israelite, Messiah Yeshua, who leads us to that, and makes it possible by His sacrifice on the Cross.
But, that’s not all there is to it. Christ was but a part of God’s plan. Most certainly the most important part, but He was not the entire plan.
To Be Continued…