Stand With Israel

Part 2: Why Does Israel Still Matter: God makes covenants NOT contracts

Picking up where we left off, I think the starting point to answering this question is understanding 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.

When God confused the languages at Babel in Genesis 11, He turned the nations over to the “sons of God,” the “bene-elohim.” In the next chapter, Genesis 12, God starts over again by choosing one man, Abram, from among the nations he had just created and turned over to the “sons of God,” and calls him out of Ur to embark on the long-term plan to take back the “nations” and redeem the world. More on that later.

Here’s the first key to begin to discover why Israel still matters. Do you remember what Abraham did when God made this everlasting covenant with him? Nothing. He was asleep (Genesis 15). That means the covenant was one-sided because the other party was sleeping. All the promises that were being made in this covenant were being made by God to Abraham and his descendants. Abraham made no reciprocal promises to God. This unconditional one-sided covenant was based entirely on God’s promises to Abraham and his descendants, for their sake, not his. The ten-dollar word for this type of covenant is “unilateral.”

By his actions, God was saying to Abraham, “You and your descendants belong to me because I chose 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”. The Hebrew scriptures thoroughly demonstrate that 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 he has for them.

How could God go back on his promises? He pledged his own self to them. He put his name, character, and reputation on the line. The bottom line is that’s not how God rolls.

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. This picture of God forms the bedrock… or the starting point for answering the question, “Why Does Israel Still Matter?”

Here it is in plain English:

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 shows his devotion to all creation. When Israel was being slaughtered by the Romans and the survivors were 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 out could make it prosper. It simply didn’t respond.

The symbiotic relationship between Israel and the land is evident in how the people and the land have suffered and prospered together. Like the sword, “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 bare mountains and deserts. It was only when the Jews returned that the land was revived and prospered. Anyone who has come to Israel can see that the ground 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?

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