Picking up where we left off, I think the starting point to answering this question is to understand that God makes covenants NOT contracts.
The covenant between God and Abraham, Issac & Jacob/Israel and their descendants was made within the broader and overarching covenant between God, Noah, his descendants and all of creation in Genesis 8:21. The Bible has nothing to do with covenants of works, only covenants of grace.
In Genesis 11 God confused the languages at Babel and gave the nations over to the sons of God, the bene-elohim. In the very next chapter, Genesis 12, God starts over again by taking one man, Abram, from the nations that he’d just turned over to the sons of God, and calls him out of his land to embark on his long term plan to take the nations back and redeem the world. More on that later.
When God made this everlasting covenant with Abraham, do you remember what Abraham was doing? Correct, he was sleeping (Genesis 15). That means the covenant was one-sided because the other party to the covenant was asleep. All the promises that were being made in this covenant were being made by God to Abraham and his descendants. Notice, Abraham made no reciprocal promises to God. This unconditional one-sided covenant was based entirely on the promises God made to Abraham and his descendants… for their sake not his. The ten dollar word for this type of covenant is “unilateral”.
God was basically saying to Abraham, “You and your descendants belong to me because I’m choosing you. And this is what I’m going to do for you, for your descendants, and for the other nations of the earth through you”. There are a lot of scriptures that demonstrate God hasn’t gone back on his covenant with Israel… that he hasn’t changed his mind about the gifts he gave them or canceled the plans that he has for them. How could he? God pledged his own self to them. He put his name, character and reputation on the line.
As covenants went in the ancient near-east, animals were slaughtered and cut in half. This was a dramatic way to symbolize the severity of the covenant. In other words, if I go back on my word or fail to do what I promise to do for you, let me be torn apart like the carcasses of these animals.
This overarching covenant is about belonging… not like possessions or “belongings” but belonging to the one Father as his treasured children. I think this forms the bedrock… or the starting point for answering the question, “Why Does Israel Still Matter?” Here it is…
Israel belongs to God because He chose them and pledged his everlasting love and commitment to them.
The fact that God has remained faithful to the people of Israel is an object lesson for the rest of the world that illustrates his faithfulness to all people. Furthermore, the fact that God is faithful to the land of Israel is an object lesson that illustrates his faithfulness to all creation.
When Israel was being slaughtered by the Romans and the survivors driven from the land and into exile by AD 135, the land suffered in their absence. None of the people who continued to live there after the Jews were driven from it were able to make it prosper. It simply didn’t respond.
Like Excalibur frozen in stone waiting for the grip of young Arthur, the land was desolate for centuries… unresponsive… a wasteland of malaria infested swamps and desolate, bare mountains and deserts. It was only when the Jews returned that the land revived and prospered. The symbiotic relationship between the people and the land is obvious by the way the people and the land have suffered and prospered together. Anyone who has come to Israel can see that the land responded when its covenant people came home. And when the people come back here they vibrate inside. It’s as if there’s a tuning fork within them resonating to the frequency of the land.
Why is that? Because the people and the land belong together.
“All the land which you see, I will give to you and your descendants forever”. (Genesis 13:15)
Therefore, Israel belongs to God unconditionally because he chose them and the land belongs to Israel unconditionally because God promised it to them.
Next in Part 3: What about Moses and the whole Law thing? It all sounds pretty conditional… right?