The Curious Case of Israel

Pastor Jerry Gillis - April 17, 2016

How does Israel fit into the plans of God for the world and for redemption? As we look back at one of the covenants God made with Israel, we will see how it fits in to the whole story of Scripture, but also how it impacts our lives today.

Community Group Study Notes

  • Why is it important that we as disciples of Jesus bless Israel? How can we set aside political issues so that we can see what Scripture says clearly? Why is this necessary?
  • What does God’s faithfulness to Israel remind you of? Why is this an important lesson for us to learn?


Memory Verse

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3)

Sermon Transcript

Good morning to you from the land of promise. This is the place that is the evidence of Yahweh's covenant with Abraham, it's the place where Joshua finished what Moses began in leading the chosen people to the land of promise. It's the place where David raised sheep, where he slew giants, and where he reigned over Israel right here in this place as king. In fact, this is the place where angels only a few miles from the place that I'm standing right now showed up one night and filled the night sky with the good news that a savior was born, the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. And this is the place where the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah walked and healed and bled and died and rose to life again. Good morning from Israel.

You know, I'm fired up about being able to communicate with you, Chapel family, today from this place. It's a beautiful back-drop, we have the Old City here, we've got our whole group that's with us that are watching this morning, and I'm excited that we have the opportunity to be able to connect from a special place and me be able to talk to you a little bit about a special message.

You know, the place here and the people here are special and confusing at times and curious. Often we don't have a tendency to know what to say when it comes to Israel. It seems sometimes that even in the western Christian world that we forget a little bit about what it is to understand who Israel is and what Israel looks like in the plans of God. So in the west, we have a tendency to think of the big story of the Bible in a certain way. And it usually goes something like this: We talk about creation, fall, redemption and restoration. Here's the problem with that. You talk about creation and fall, which is absolutely right, but by the time you've finished Genesis chapter three, you've established that God has created everything and you've established the fall of humanity into sin, but what you haven't established is that you've left out basically Genesis four through Malachi, because we run immediately to the gospels. We run immediately to what Jesus has done and how He's going to restore everything. So the idea of creation, fall, redemption, restoration is missing an element. In fact, it's missing almost the whole Old Testament. Instead, this should look like creation, fall, covenant, redemption, restoration.

You see, because the people of God, Israel, are the foundation for what we talk about in the Old Testament Scriptures. When we read the Hebrew Scriptures, we're understanding how God relates to his people Israel and he shows his work through his people Israel, and that is fundamental to God's purposes in Scripture. Now there's way too many things that we could talk about today, being in the land of Israel, I could take just about any subject I wanted to and begin to talk to you all about that particular subject, but I want to focus on that idea of covenant. In fact, I want to focus on a very specific covenant that God enacted with Israel, and it's the covenant that God made with Abraham, or Abram when he made this covenant. It is one of the fundamental stories of Scripture, and it's on that baseline that we see a lot of things unfold in the context of Scripture.

You may remember the story, it's in Genesis chapter twelve, if you want to turn there, but we'll show this to you on the screens as well, but in Genesis twelve it says this, beginning in verse 1: "The Lord had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse them; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

So here's the idea of this covenant, it's absolutely fundamental and foundational because this covenant basically guarantees three things. It guarantees that there is going to be a land, right there in verse number one he says "go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land that I will show you". The land that God promised to give his people. So part of the Abrahamic covenant is the promise of land.

But secondly, the promise that God made to Abraham, or the covenant, is a promise of people. In other words, even though Abraham at this point doesn't have any sons, he is still going to bless Abraham and Sarah with a son and through that is going to create a people. And of course, I'm standing here with an Israeli filmmaker and I'm around Israelis and I'm in the land of Israel, so there's obviously a people and we're obviously in a land. This is the land that was promised and now it's been re-inhabited by the people of Israel.

But there's a third aspect to this promise that sometimes gets overlooked. When we think about the Abrahamic promise often we're thinking about the land and the people. Those are obvious and we can see that both from simple history and from observation today. But what we fail to remember is the idea of blessing and curse that God established in the Abrahamic covenant. he said "I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you".

Now this is an interesting thing because the covenant that God made with Abraham was what we would call an unconditional covenant. See, back in the ancient world whenever a covenant was made, it was made in a very specific way. This may seem kind of archaic and barbaric to us when we think about it because now we, you know, we shake hands or we sign contracts, or we exchange money and that's how we set up a deal. But back in the ancient world, there were things that were very valuable to them like livestock. And so they would take those things and they would sacrifice them and in fact, cut them in half, and they would make a pathway where the animals would be on both sides of the two people that were making the covenant. And the two people making the covenant would then walk through the middle of everything that you saw there, all the carcasses that were there and each would walk through basically making the promise that if they failed to meet their obligations of the covenant may they end up like these animals. It was a pretty solemn thing.

But this covenant was actually one way. It was unconditional and we actually see that when we fast-forward into the book of Genesis in chapter 15 beginning in verse number 8 it says this: "But Abram said, 'Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it this covenant, this promise, this land. "So the Lord said to him "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.' Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; (just like we talked about) the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, 'Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.' When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, 'To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, The Euphrates - the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites." You got all the ites, right that are in there?

And so here's what happened. God is the one, only one, that actually walks through the middle of what has been cut as this covenant. This is an unconditional covenant because it is fully conditioned on God's faithfulness, not on Abram's. Abram actually falls into a deep sleep - he doesn't actually walk through. This is only the presence of God that passes through, so that makes this an unconditional covenant.

So, in this covenant to Abraham, God promised the land, God also promised a people, here we are. I'm living testimony to being in a land with a people and we see the faithfulness of God's covenant. But the last part of the covenant hasn't received much attention, but it should because it helps us to see how God is faithful to his promises, the idea that "I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse those who curse you".

We actually see that starting to unfold in the pages of Scripture. In fact, what we see is we see in the book of Genesis how this kind of works itself out on an individual basis, and then when we look into Exodus because we now have a nation, we see it working out in a national basis, and then ultimately we see it playing out in history. So let's unpack those for just a moment if we could. Let me show you what I mean.

Let's first look at the individual outworking of the Abrahamic Covenant. All right? And let's look at it in this sense. Let's look at it from the standpoint of the curse, where God says, "I will curse those who curse you". Of course at the very beginning, we're only talking about Abraham because Israel as a nation has not yet come to be, but Abraham as a person is representative of Israel in the very foundation, and that's why there's a covenant made with him. But we see that when he is mistreated or he is cursed, then people who deal with him that way find themselves receiving a curse from God, because God is actually honoring the covenant he made individually with Abraham, and he will later honor it as a people. Even if Abraham has a tendency not to do everything right or by the book, because this was all about God, not about Abraham, right?

So when you look in Genesis twelve where that covenant is, you can actually look just a few verses down in verse number ten and you can see this play out, watch. Genesis twelve verse ten says: "Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt he said to his wife Sarai, "I know what a beautiful woman you are." Just pause, guys, that's a good statement. You may want to think about it. Here's what he said, "I know how beautiful you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife'. Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.' So when Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace." Then it goes on to tell us, "But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai."

Here's where you see the individual working out of the Abrahamic Covenant, right? Even though Abraham only tells a half-truth, there was some relationship with Sarai there, it's kind of a half-truth, wife and sort of relative, let's not get into that, but that's just kind of how the deal was, even though he says that, and they take her, "she's my sister" so they take her, well, God still deals with them for taking Abraham's wife. It is a curse for a curse. And you start to see that play out.

Even a little bit later Abraham actually takes the same path with a man named Abimelech when he's in the region of Gerar. In fact, in Genesis chapter 20 notice what it says beginning in verse one, it says: "Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, "She is my sister." He's playing this one out pretty significantly isn't he? "Then Abimelek, king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her. But God came to Abimilek in a dream one night and said to him, "You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman." God forgets nothing, right? When he covenants with Abraham, in his faithfulness because it's all about God, it's not about Abraham. Even though Abraham was making these statements about Sarai being his sister, whenever these people take her, they are finding out that they are cursed as a result of that because they're bringing a curse upon Abraham. It's absolutely stunning, and this is a pattern we're actually going to see as we look at this, that in this covenant what happens in the curse, is it's usually a curse for a curse in kind. In other words, the way that you have cursed Abraham and his family is the way that you are going to experience curse.

In fact, when you look a little bit further in Genesis chapter 20 notice what you find in verse 17, it says, finally when they found out about all of this stuff about Sarah not being his sister, but actually being his wife it says that Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so that they could have children again. For the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek's household from conceiving because of Abraham's wife Sarah." So here's what this looked like. God says because of his covenant faithfulness with Abraham, oh, you're going to take Sarah, well then I'm going to curse you by not letting any of your women be able to bear children. You think you're going to be able remove the mother of the promise, where I am going to have my people, I have covenant and even though that's not the case yet, you're going to remove the mother and try and cut off the promise? Then I am going to cause all of your women not to be able to bear children as well. It was a curse for a curse in kind. So we see this covenant idea of "I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you" working out in an individual way.

So we've already looked at kind of the curse side of that, what about the blessing side. Well, we can see that as well. If you fast-forward to Genesis chapter 30 we run into a guy named Jacob. You remember Jacob, I remember Jacob and Jacob was working for a man named Laban. Laban was not a follower of God but Jacob was working for him and here's what it says in the Scripture in Genesis 30 beginning in verse 25. It says: "After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, 'send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I've done for you.' But here's what Laban said to him, check this out: "If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you'. And then he said 'name your wages and I will pay them." Probably a statement that everybody under the sound of my voice would love to hear, right? Name your wages and I will pay them. But he understood that this was blessing. Here's what Laban, not a God-follower, not a follower of the covenant God of Israel, Laban understands that "I have been blessed because Jacob is here." Jacob, who comes from the line of Abraham is there and Laban empowered him by giving him a job and paying him and all those things and do you know what happened? He was blessed because he was being a blessing to the line of Abraham. It's really a beautiful picture.

If you want to even track it further, a son of Jacob named Joseph that we're all familiar with, we can see the same thing playing out in Joseph's individual life as well. It says in Genesis 39, beginning in verse number one, "Now Joseph has been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of the Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of all of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and the field."

Do you see the pattern here? That when blessing happens to those who are followers of God in the line of Abraham, they are blessed. When curse happens to those who are in the line of Abraham, the same kind of curse is placed upon them. This is a part of the covenant blessing, and you see it in the book of Genesis working out in an individual way.

But there's a second piece to this. It not only works out in an individual way in the book of Genesis, but it works out in a national way once we start getting into the book of Exodus. Because in the book of Exodus, we see now a nation that has come to be, right, after the time of Joseph and this develops into a nation, we see that playing out. And in fact, you can see it in Exodus chapter one beginning in verse 8. It says: "Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing," in other words, the memory of Joseph didn't mean anything to this guy anymore, "he came to power in Egypt. "Look,' he said to his people. 'the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country. So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh."

So, what you can see here is that as the promise that we read earlier, God when he made this covenant in Genesis 15 with Abraham, he said, I'm the one making this covenant and even though you're going to see a land and you're going to see a people, it's going to take some time because your people someday, even though you, Abraham, are not going to see this, you're going to go rest in peace with your fathers, but your people are actually going to dwell in captivity for four hundred years. God told Abraham this back when he made the covenant. He said, "But, I will not forget my covenant that I am making because the covenant depends on me, not on you. And so I'm going to make sure that I deal with this." So now we see this people who are going to be in bondage in slavery for a long period of time.

But it goes way beyond slavery in terms of the curse that Egypt is putting on Israel. It goes into murder. Listen to what it says a little later in Exodus chapter one beginning in verse fifteen: "The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 'When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live'. Then Pharoah gave this order to all his people: "Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live." I mean, just reading that feels barbaric, doesn't it? I mean you read that and you just go "What? How can this be?" But this was the directive now to the people of Israel and he told the midwives, even though Shiphrah and Puah did not obey that, by the way, but all the other Hebrew midwives may have been, but they were taking the first-born children of Israel and if they were a boy they were throwing them into the Nile to drown.

I mean just reading that feels barbaric, doesn't it? I mean you read that and you just go, what? How can this be? But this was the directive now to the people of Israel and he told the midwives, even though Shiphrah and Puah did not obey that, by the way, but all the other Hebrew midwives may have been - but they were taking the firstborn children of Israel and if they were a boy, they were throwing them into the Nile to drown. I mean that's startling to even hear and to think about.

But notice what God later on, when he raises up Moses who is going to deliver his people, God has not forgotten any of this. Even though much time has passed, God remembers his covenant and notice what he says in Exodus chapter four, beginning in verse twenty-two. God says to Moses, say to Pharaoh, "This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, "Let my son go, so he may worship me." But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn sons." Here's where you see the covenant with Abraham playing out at a national level. What you see is blessing for blessing and curse for curse. You're going to kill all of our sons therefore your sons are going to die. This is startling. God knows what he's doing and he remembers everything related to it.

So you can see - listen, watch how this unfolds nationally in this Abrahamic covenant - as Israel is under the plague of slavery, what happens to Egypt when Moses is raised up? They experience plagues. As Israel's firstborn children are killed, what happens to Egypt? Their firstborn children are killed. And then, just to make sure that God establishes that he remembers everything about everything, when his people are led by Moses through the Red Sea and the go across on dry land, the Egyptians try and come after and what happens to them? The sea closes its mouth on them and they what? Drown. Just like the little children in the Nile. Think about that. God doesn't miss anything.

This is a covenant that he made with his people that was dependent upon him. He said I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you, and God does the cursing basically in kind. I mean you can keep going in the book of Exodus.

In fact, if you look at Exodus chapter seventeen you see the simple statement. The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. So they're going to bring the curse of war on to the Israelites. So what happens? Well, a few verses later in Exodus seventeen verses fourteen through sixteen it says this: The Lord said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven."  Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, "Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation." They brought war on Israel, and God brings war to them. A curse for a curse.

In fact, it took a little bit of time but once you see Saul as the king of Israel much later on you see this played out. Because in 1 Samuel fifteen beginning in verse number one Samuel said to Saul these words: "I am the on the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt." That was a long time ago! God remembers his covenant. He says "Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Don't spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys." But you know what's interesting about this? Even though God is dealing curse for curse with the Amalekites, he doesn't forget blessing. He'll bless those who bless you, Israel. He'll curse those who curse you.

And back when Israel was leaving Egypt, there was a group of people called the Kenites, and the Kenites were actually good to Israel. But now, many years later under the reign of King Saul, the Kenites are living among the Amalekites and now God's given this executive order to basically - I'm going to fulfill my covenant curse for curse so I want you to deal with the Amalekites but listen to how God remembers blessing. First Samuel fifteen verses five and six says this: Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. But then he sent word or said to the Kenites, "Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt." So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites.
God remembers and sees everything and is committed to fulfilling his covenant.

So you see it individually working out in Genesis. You see it nationally working out in the book of Exodus but even as you go through the Old Testament you see it nationally working out as well.

For instance when you read the book of Esther. We won't go through the entire story but without reading the whole story you remember there was a high ranking official in King Xerxes Persian government. His name was Haman. And Haman was a little bit power hungry, not a good dude, and he was mad at a Jew named Mordecai. In fact he was so mad at this Jew that Haman eventually decides - I'm summarizing here - eventually he decides to make it a government policy that on a particular day of the year all of the people there in Persia were allowed to kill Jews - on a particular day of the year.

You probably didn't see it. In fact I hope you didn't see it, but you might have seen some trailers for that movie a few years ago called The Purge. The setup of this movie that there was one day a year that was declared that you could go out and just wreak havoc and kill and do whatever, and you didn't face the consequences. That's almost what you've got here. It's almost like that movie was built upon something that happened in Old Testament history.

So you've got this desire from Haman who ends up getting a day from the king and it's signed with an insignia so it can't be revoked that they can go out and they can kill all the Jews on one particular day. But Haman wants to make a special treat of Mordecai, because he doesn't like Mordecai at all. And so he builds a pole for him to be impaled upon - hung on - in the gallows. But as this is all going on, as all of this curse is coming from them to the Jewish people, God is still faithful to his covenant.

And notice what it say in Esther chapter six. Notice what happened when all this was going on. It says that night (Esther chapter six verse one and two) - that night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. (I guess that's what kings do when they can't sleep. Read me all the things that I've done. I guess that's what they do.) And then it says it was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.

So you know what the king had forgotten about? That Mordecai actually exposed an assassination plot - a Jew who had exposed an assassination plot for the king, for a non-Jewish king. And so while he began to think about that, the king thought to himself, you know what? Have we ever done anything good to honor Mordecai? And he said, no, we haven't done anything. We've not done anything special - thrown him a parade, given him the key to the city - we haven't done any of that stuff. So the king brings in Haman and doesn't tell him what he's going to do but he says, hey, if there's somebody I really wanted to honor and I really wanted to bless for something that they had done, what should I do? And so Haman gives him all these good ideas because Haman thinks he's talking about him! He's like, here's what I would do. And he's throwing the whole shooting match at him. I think you should give him a yacht, send him to Disney World (that's not actually in there - I'm kind of throwing that in as you could tell). But he tells him all these wonderful things and then he says, well, what should I do to people who oppose this idea? And he said, well, they should be dealt with severely and all that. And do you know what happens? Haman had designed an impaling pole and gallows for Mordecai, and do you know what happens to Haman? He ends up hanging on the same place that he himself designed. Why? Curse for a curse.

But do you know what still was happening in Israel? There was still, because it had been signed and could not be revoked because of the king's insignia? There was still a day of the year where all of Israel could be attacked and the Jews could be killed. What do you do about something like that? Well, what the king did was he signed another order and that other order was that the Jews on that day could defend themselves. Now that's significant,. because now what you have is God being able to deal curse for curse in kind. And in fact, if you read further in Esther chapter nine verse five it says that the Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them. In other words, everybody who was trying to kill them ended up getting killed. Curse for curse in kind.

I hope that I've made the case here - when you're looking at the Scripture in this foundational covenant with Abram. God says I'm going to make you a people, I'm going to give you a land, and I'm going to bless those who bless you and I'm going to curse those who curse you. And you see that unfold individually in the line of Abraham in Genesis, and you see it unpack nationally in Exodus and further on like the time of Esther. So enemies of Israel tried to curse Israel by taking away the wives and mothers of the promise, by killing her sons, by issuing government extermination policies and by making war.

And do you realize that none of them worked then and none of them have worked in history since. Do you realize that in history, if you start looking through the history of Israel - I'm talking about modern and semi-modern history, that there have been enemies that have tried at times through the course of known history to try and steal, kill their wives? Do you know that there have been enemies that have tried to take Israel's sons and maybe they have. Do you know that there's also been nations that have enacted government policies to exterminate Jewish people? Do you know that there have been nations that tried to coalesce together? In fact, when Israel became a state, they tried to coalesce together to make war on Israel? Here's the interesting thing. Here we are. Here I stand. In Israel. Among Jewish people. Why? Because God is faithful to his covenant.

Now, this is significant for us because we have to ask the question - how can we start to understand how amazing it is to see Yahweh's covenant faithfulness to the Jewish people over thousands of years and as a gentile, what's extraordinary is to know that through in Messiah Jesus that we have actually been included in the blessing of Abraham. That's what Paul tells us - a Jewish writer - who tells us in the book of Galatians that we've been included in the blessing of Abraham.

So practically, after establishing all of this in the covenant, how do we act in accord with this reality? In other words, why should the Church bless Israel? That's a fair question when we're looking at this big idea. Why should the Church bless Israel? Let me give you three things here before I finish from the land of Israel.

Here's the first reason. The first reason the Church should bless Israel is because of the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant. In other words, this covenant was totally dependent upon God, not upon Abraham. And as a result of that, that makes it unconditional. In other words, God has been and is faithful to the covenant that he made with a specific people known as Israel back then, in the Hebrew Scriptures and through the course of history and through the future. God will be faithful because of the unconditional nature of his covenant.

In fact - we won't read it - but when you start to read Romans nine, ten, and eleven you still see ethnic Israel talked about there and how at some point in some time all Israel will be saved. That there is going to be a great blessing that comes to Israel and the Church should be a people that blesses Israel because of the nature of the unconditional nature of this covenant.

So what does that mean? Well, as somebody who is providing some sense of spiritual direction at The Chapel, and some sense of leadership, I want to encourage us as a church to be a people who blesses Israel. I don't fully know what it means in our context what it looks like to fully bless Israel, but I want to be a people that does that. Because if this covenant - and it is - unconditional, it is based upon God, not upon human beings - that also means since it's only incumbent upon God, it's unconditional and it's everlasting. So you know what I want to lead us to do? I want us to err on the side of blessing Israel, because in so doing, we are blessed as a result of that. I don't fully understand the mystery of how God works in that way. I don't even know fully what that blessing looks like. What I do know is this: I want to be on the side of I will bless those who bless you, and not on the side of I will curse those who curse you. This is God's people that he's chosen, that he's made the covenant with by his own sovereign design and I don't understand it fully but I want to make sure that I honor that.

Now that doesn't mean, by the way, that those who are followers of Yeshua, those who are followers of Jesus, that we try to become Jewish. That's not the intent at all, and the New Testament is very clear about that. That's not what we're trying to do. We're not trying to become Jewish. We're not Jewish. We weren't born in that context. But what we are doing is we are blessing those who are of Israel.

What does that look like? Well, I mean that could look like a variety of different things. One of the things that we have done is we've partnered with a ministry called FirstFruits that you guys know that we have given to and helped and ministered through them and helped to bless Israel. That's a part of how we do this. We have also taken the opportunity to participate with another ministry called Eagles Wings where we help to feed those who are in Israel in fact both Arabs and Jews that were in Jerusalem - we were helping to feed them in that context. Again, I don't know what all of this looks like. I just want to make sure that with an integrity to the Scripture that I help lead us to a place and encourage us and exhort us to a place that says I want us to be in a place where we are receiving blessing because we are blessing Israel. Not in a place where we are in any way cursing Israel.

So the first reason that the Church should bless Israel is because of the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant. But the second reason is because of our spiritual gratitude. Now this is significant and I'll tell you why. Because when we see Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman at a well - you remember the story, right? He's talking to this woman and they talked about a number of different things, but Jesus says something striking in John chapter four verse twenty-two. It says these words: "You Samaritans worship what you do not know; but we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews."

Now if we don't have spiritual gratitude to the people of Israel, to the covenant that God made with his people that he chose, we're actually showing a lack of gratitude to where our salvation comes from. Because the one who is speaking to the Samaritan woman was himself born Jewish. Jesus, Yeshua - he was born Jewish, and he came out of the line of Jews fulfilling what Israel was always designed to be, to be the representative of the glory of God to the nations. Yeshua is actually fulfilling this in his own person as the Son of God and the son of man. And as a result of that, we know that we have a spiritual gratitude to the line or the history of Israel and God's faithfulness to them and should have a deep spiritual gratitude because our salvation came out of that line. That is our root, that is our heritage.

But I would suggest to you that Paul, who was Jewish - Shaul, Saul - he also reminds us in the book of Romans chapter number fifteen about our gratitude. Notice what it says in verse twenty-five. Paul says now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord's people there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord's people in Jerusalem. Listen to this - they were pleased to do it, and indeed, they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.

Do you see how clear Paul is here about gratitude? Paul is actually saying because of how grateful you should be as Gentiles for the spiritual blessings that have come out of Israel - your Savior, the promises, the inclusion of blessing that you have experienced - you have been blessed spiritually through them. You should be willing to share materially with them.

Now again, I don't 100% know what that looks like. I don't know 100% what it looks like to still maintain a debt of gratitude to the Jewish people. I just know that we have made a case for being a people that tries to honor the reality of that truth. Over the last few years in fact what we've done as a church at The Chapel is the very first offering we give of the year over the last few years has been given to the Jewish people. The very first. So you'll see that that's a part of what we do at Christmas and that we make our very first offering into the Jewish people whether that's to help feed and clothe some people that are in Jerusalem, or whether that's to help some of those folks like in the FirstFruits ministry helping some of the messianic believers to develop businesses and develop entrepreneurial skills so that they can make money and feed their families as well as bless the Church and forward the ministry of the gospel. We've done that. Why? Because we have a debt of gratitude! This is the lineage that we have. We come from that same root.

Remember how Paul talks about it in the book of Romans? I won't show it to you but he talks about that idea that we as the Church should never become conceited because we have been grafted in to a preexisting olive tree. We are not the original olive tree. We've been grafted into that. And so he says don't become conceited. So we always want to show a depth of spiritual gratitude to Israel. But the third thing, the reason that the Church should bless Israel is because of the gospel of Messiah Jesus. That's why.

In fact, when Paul talks about this in the book of Romans chapter one, he actually says it this way: For I am not ashamed (Romans chapter one verse sixteen) For I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. Then listen to this: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

Now the reason that this gospel is so beautiful is it comes from all of God's promises to his people Israel. That from its very inception this idea of covenant with Abraham, that God was going have a people, and God was going to give a land and God was bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you - ultimately the seed of Abraham, Paul tells us, is Jesus. Yeshua. And so our hope is in the great news that in Yeshua, God has fulfilled his promise and his faithfulness and continues to show his faithfulness not only to his own people, but it is broader than his own people, Israel, and extends to the world. That Jesus is Israel's true Messiah, but he is also the world's true Lord.

And that reminder - that the gospel of Messiah Jesus - it should be a reminder as to why we would bless Israel. Paul, endeavored to bless Israel with this news - with the beautiful news of the gospel that Israel can be reconciled to God through the representative of Israel who came of the line of David, who was born of a virgin, who has a genealogy of royalty - Jesus. This genealogy of royalty who is Jesus gives every man, woman, and child - whether Jew or Gentile - through faith in him an opportunity to be reconciled to God and they together through faith in Jesus become one new people of God as it says in Ephesians. The Church. This is a beautiful picture of what we are to be a blessing to Israel for.

Paul says though it's first to the Jew then to the Gentile. Do you know that everywhere Paul went in his missionary journeys, when he was traveling around and he would go to all of these cities, the first place that he would go? He'd go find the Jewish people. Why? Because he said that the gospel is to first go to them and then to the Gentiles. And when you track it in the book of Acts, you'll see Paul going to the synagogue, going and reasoning in the synagogue. Sometimes if they said, hey, we don't want to hear this anymore, he said okay and he went to the Gentiles. Sometimes the Jews that were in the synagogues said, hey, we believe that. We want to be followers of Yeshua. And they would follow after Yeshua. So Paul was bringing the blessing to them because God had fulfilled all of his promises - his promises of a savior being born in Bethlehem like it says in Micah. His promise that ultimately the enemy's head would be crushed through the seed of Adam which ultimately would be through the covenant of Abraham and would ultimately result in the one who was fully human and fully God, the man Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God.

So, we have a responsibility to be a people who blesses Israel. And I say all of that to say what do you do when you reflect on this? Here's what I want you to do. I want you to let God's relentless faithfulness to Israel remind you of His relentless faithfulness to you, in Messiah Jesus. Because when you look at the outworking of how God has been faithful, the evidence is overwhelming. God has been faithful to his people, and when you read that without skipping the covenant part of the Old Testament, you see a faithful God who made a covenant and who's good to the covenant because God himself is good, because God himself is faithful, and it's not contingent upon Abraham or those who come in the line of Abraham. It's contingent upon God. God has a relentless faithfulness to Israel and what that should remind you and I of is that when we put our faith in Messiah Jesus, we are now in the blessing of Abraham and it means that God has a relentless faithfulness to us.

Some of you may have felt alone in your lives before or you may feel like God is paying you no attention. I can tell you this. That if you have put your faith and your trust in what Messiah Jesus has done, who lived and who died right here in this city, right here in this city. In fact, in this place where we are, just a few miles that direction is where Abraham, the one who received the covenant looked up to the hills and said I'm going to go over there with my son Isaac who I'm going to offer as a sacrifice but we will return. And he goes up on to Mount Moriyyah, Mount Moriah that we call it and he's about to offer that sacrifice, but a ram comes out, they offer a ram instead and it was picture of what was to come on the same mountain that's behind me. On Mount Moriah back here Jesus would offer his very life for our salvation and in so doing, even in this place we are reminded of the faithfulness of God to Abraham and to Abraham's seed Jesus, so that when Jesus went to that cross, took upon himself our sins as the Passover lamb, the sinless one became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. He took our sin, took upon himself the judgment of God and over where the temple stood on the Temple Mount, the curtain of the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom so that now we who have put our faith and trust in Jesus, the great High Priest, can enter in to the holy place any time that we want to by confidence that we have in what Jesus has done as our great High Priest. We now can come in to the Holy of Holies. This is the great blessing that was promised to Abraham and we are included in that blessing because of the seed of the blessing, Jesus the Messiah.

So maybe you're here and you felt alone. Let me tell you this. You put your faith in Jesus you're never going to be alone, because he said I will never leave you and never forsake you. Why? Because he is the Son of God and he is God in the second person - Father, Son, and Spirit - and God is relentlessly faithful to his people. He has always been relentlessly faithful to Israel and through Jesus he is relentlessly faithful to his Church. You are not alone and you never will be no matter what you feel. If you face persecution, if you face family members, if you face work associates, if it's at your school and you think I'm a student - it seems like there's nobody here who's willing to walk with Jesus because the peer pressure seems so high - I'm telling you right now: He will be faithful to you and He will walk you through. Let God's relentless faithfulness to Israel remind you of his relentless faithfulness to you in and through Messiah Jesus because He himself enacted a covenant. And he said I'm going to give you a people and a land and will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you. Let's be a people who receives the blessing and who in turn turns around the blessing to the people that God chose, Israel. Let's bow our heads together for a moment as we pray.

Pastor Jonathan Drake: With our heads bowed and our eyes closed there's a few things that in light of the Scripture, in light of what God said to us today through Pastor Jerry. For all of us there's probably at least one thing and for some there may be many things. There's some things that we need to repent of in light of the Scripture today. The first thing in relation to Israel is that maybe some of us need to repent of thinking politically before we think biblically. We need to repent of that if we claim to be disciples of Jesus. Maybe a second thing in relation to Israel is we need to repent of the times that we have spoken in a derogatory fashion - using a joke or a story, a humorous thing that we thought was flippant but actually speaks negatively about the apple of God's eye. We need to repent of that. Some of us need to repent of what we've thought about God - that he's forgotten us, that he won't come through., that his promises are empty promises, that he's forgotten you. Friends, my encouragement to us today, all of us today, in light of what we heard is that we would have a deep confident trust in our heavenly Father whose word is true, who always makes good on his promises, who is faithful even when we are faithless yet he remains faithful. So in the quietness of this moment with your heads bowed and your eyes closed, ask God right now - maybe something I mentioned, maybe something else. God, what are you showing me today and how do I need to respond? Ask him that in the quietness of your heart right now.

Father, I pray that for all of us today as we've heard your word clearly, thank you for speaking to us today. Thank you for giving us exactly what we need right when we need it. I pray, Lord, that we would apply these truths, that you would write them on our hearts and that we would be a changed people today as a result of that. That we would demonstrate as the body of Christ, the Church, what it means to bless Israel. Even as we discover and figure out all of what that means in today's world, in today's context, I pray that you would give us grace to do that. And that we would do that out of our reverence and gratitude for you. We are so thankful, Lord, to be grafted into your promises - to be taken from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of your Son and I pray, Lord, that we would not become conceded or arrogant because of, well, we've arrived. But that we would remember where we fit into your plan, your story, the story of your grace. And I pray that we would live these truths out in a way that is identifiable and recognizable in a watching world so that there would be something unique and different about how the Church handles herself in regards to Israel for your glory. And we ask this in Christ's name. Amen.

Thanks, everyone. We love you. You're dismissed.

Worship Set List

You Make Me Brave

Bethel Music


Death Was Arrested

North Point


Broken Vessels



All I Want Is Jesus

Benji and Jenna Cowart


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Subject: The Curious Case of Israel

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