For the week of March 12, 2011 / 6 Adar 2 5771
Torah: Yayikra / Leviticus 1:1 - 5:26
Haftarah: Isaiah 43:21 - 44:23

The People of God

This one will say, "I am the LORD's," another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, "The LORD's," and name himself by the name of Israel. (Isaiah 44:5; ESV)

The central theme of the whole Bible is God's plan to reestablish right relationship with human beings. Having been made "very good" by God in the beginning, our first parents rejected God's word and listened to the Tempter, thrusting the human race into a state of alienation from our Creator. God determined from that day to restore our broken relationship with him (see Bereshit / Genesis 3:15). One might wonder why God didn't fix things on the spot. Why has the reconciliation of mankind to God been so drawn out, difficult, and complex? The complexity of this solution underscores the complexity of the problem. The more I ponder this, the more I realize how terrible our rebellious state really is. God's approach to this problem is the exact appropriate and most effective solution there is.

It would be centuries between God's promise of restoration in the Garden of Eden and the real beginnings of the outworking of his restorative plan. This occurred when God promised blessing to the whole world through Abraham. While so much of the focus of the Hebrew Scriptures is on Israel itself, throughout its pages we see how God's work in and through Israel would result in great benefit for all peoples and the entire creation.

An example of this is found in this week's Haftarah portion. Through the prophet Isaiah, God speaks of a time when he would restore wayward Israel to himself. As this occurs even those who were not of Israel originally would consider themselves as such and regard themselves as belonging to Israel's God.

The turning of non-Jewish nations to the God of Israel is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham - the fulfillment of God's promise in the Garden. Israel was not chosen as a holy nation for itself, but for global blessing.

How this was to work out was a major challenge to the early followers of Yeshua. It took a while for the first generation of Jewish believers to accept and embrace God's desire to make himself known to non-Jewish people. Then, once more and more non-Jews began to trust in the Messiah, it would be through controversy that the place of non-Jews within the community of believers would be adequately understood. In time, non-Jewish believers would be accepted as full members of the New Covenant community.

Through Yeshua all people, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, are restored to right relationship with God. As such, all believers are equally regarded as part of the people of God. God is equally Father to all who are reconciled to him through the Messiah by faith. We all have the same access to him. God has no favorites. How much one may benefit by their relationship with God and their particular calling and gifts may differ from person to person. Yet at the same time, all believers are equally part of God's family.

The establishment of the New Covenant community as a multinational gathering of people based on faith in the Messiah should not be confused with God's particular plans and purposes for the people of Israel, however. While Israel's tendency to see itself as the sole benefactor of God's blessings became an obstacle to its comprehending its call to be an instrument of those blessings to all nations, the incorporation of the nations as part of the people of God in no way undermines the particular aspects of God's plan that applies particularly to Israel.

This "both/and" of the one messianic people of God and God's continued covenantal faithfulness to Abrahams' descendents through Isaac and Jacob is an essential element of biblical truth. To fail to grasp the importance of these two essential aspects of God's overall plan of reconciliation is to disqualify ourselves from full participation in that plan.

Israel was called to be God's instrument of blessing to the entire world. Contrary to popular thought, this was realized through the Jewish Messiah and his early Jewish followers. The New Covenant (New Testament) writings is the legacy of Israel to the world. The temporary failure of the majority of Israel to embrace its messianic call in Yeshua in no way undermines God's plan for the world or Israel's own destiny, for God will yet fulfill his promises to them.

For more information regarding the identity of Israel in the New Covenant writings, please see my article, God Did Not Reject His People - The Identity of Israel in Paul's Letter to the Romans, Chapter 11.

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