Why should you care about Israel? That’s the question I aim to answer today. First, a little backstory so you know where I’m coming from.
My name is Liat, I was born in Kfar Saba, Israel into a Messianic Jewish family.
Do you think your childhood was kind of crazy? Maybe think again lol
I was born in Kfar Saba, Israel and lived all across Israel. There was the scorching dry desert of the Negev where we spent our days scrambling on top of donkeys & camels, meeting local Bedouins and sitting in front of whirring fans – attempting to escape the blistering heat.
We can’t of course forget about Northern Israel with its trees drooping with ripe fruit and catching fish with an old water bottle in the Sea of Galilee (a local trick).
Most memorable however would of course be Jerusalem.
Jerusalem. A perfect mixture of ancient and modern. Of celebrations and of struggle.
My memories of growing up on the outskirts of Jerusalem range from mountain top moments to crushing disappointments.
A simple day of running errands near the Old City would mean hearing beautiful violin music waft through the air from street performers & listening to a harp player sitting near Jaffa gate.
Arab merchants, on the other hand, were attempting to coax customers into their store with promises of coffee and tea. “My friend! Join us!” They said with heavy accents and hopeful smiles.
I of course, stop along the way to chat with strangers (there is really no such thing in Israel, we are more like one big family) and taking in all the incredible sights, sounds and scents from the market nearby.
I love walking down the streets of Jerusalem cherishing the sense of life, beauty & belonging.
I don’t want to deceive you however, life in Israel is by no means rainbows and butterflies. It is often a daily struggle of intense stress, chaos and fight for survival.
With the cost of living so extremely high and salaries so low it’s typical for families to be in debt struggling to make ends meet and cover basic expenses such as rent & groceries. At times, that’s the least of our worries.
It was just a regular day after school. My brother grudgingly agreed to come pick me up instead of me having to take the hour 1/2 bus ride home. It would eat up some of his time but save me from getting bus sick as I often did on the windy, narrow roads.
I climbed into the car and peered out my window mindlessly, my thoughts consumed with whatever middle school girls think about. Then suddenly I heard it. “BOOM.” I jumped. It resounded throughout the city.
“What was that?” I asked breathlessly. Confusion etched into my brother’s face. “Did something fall on our roof?” He asked dubiously. I glanced up at the unharmed interior of the car and shook my head.
We cautiously rolled forward and continued on our way. Ambulances & police began flying by us racing towards my bus station. My brother fumbled with the radio. “A bomb was planted on bus by Palestinian terrorist…. critical condition… first responders on scene…”
It stammered in and out.
Later it was confirmed. Another terrorist attack at the central station in Jerusalem, right where I would have been standing. Several killed, dozens badly injured.
This tragedy happened several years ago but there have been hundreds more like it since.
Just a few days ago a young Israeli soldier was killed by Arab youth throwing rocks at him. He was his parents only son. My heart breaks a little every time more news rolls in of another death, another attack, more pain, more struggle.
WATCH & SHARE SHORT FILM – THE HEARTBEAT OF ISRAEL
It can be hard to grasp the complexity of Israel, more importantly God’s heart for Israel and the Jewish people when being so far removed. It can seem like Israel is so far away and it can be difficult to discern what is even the truth behind current events since mainstream media portrays a very skewed reality.
Every single believer should care about Israel and the Jewish people. Not only care about it but be willing to lay down their lives if necessary. That’s a pretty bold statement but it’s exactly what we’re called to do by following Yeshua’s example.
Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24)
As believers we need to recognise that the Jewish people are God’s chosen people. When Yeshua came to earth scripture says He came for the lost sheep of the house of Israel!
“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His prized possession, above all peoples on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6)
Why are we chosen? Are we chosen because we’re better than everyone else? Stronger, smarter, holier? I don’t think so.
“The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.” (Deuteronomy 7:7)
Israel is by no means perfect. We see throughout the bible their rebellion, sin and failure. Just like us, they need God’s mercy, forgiveness and redemption.
In the Old Testament (Torah) we see horrific acts of child sacrifice, sexual immorality, violence, corruption… the list goes on.
I’m grieved to say that In modern day Israel, there are still ungodly practices that go on: abortions, prostitution, homosexuality, etc.
Believe me when I say that Israel was not chosen because of their lack of sin, exactly how it’s not our actions that justify us before God but our faith in Yeshua.
“I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.” (Romans 11:1-2)
The truth is that God will never forsake His people Israel, despite our sin and flaws He will always choose Israel to be His special treasure above all the earth.
There is a theology circulating around some churches that states “Israel messed up too many times with their sin, rejected the Messiah (Jesus/Yeshua) therefore God abandoned them and has replaced Israel with us (Christians.)
This could. not. be. further. from. the. truth!
We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all in desperate need of His forgiveness and mercy.
God has not, and never will replace Israel. What we has done however is open up the way so that whoever wants to follow Him has the opportunity to do so, regardless of their ethnic background.
So what about the nations? Where does that leave those who are not Jewish?
The original question was not “how can I be Jewish and believe in Jesus?”
The original question was “How can a non-Jewish person believe & follow a Jewish Messiah?!”
This was such a foreign thought in biblical times yet God clearly provides us with an answer.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Yeshua the Messiah.” (Galatians 3:28)
We are one in the Messiah.
Through Yeshua we are one united people. There is no separate standard or favouritism. The goal if you’re a Gentile is not to ‘become as Jewish as possible.’ Like-wise the goal for a Jewish believer is not to ‘abandon all Jewishness, traditions & culture to prove your salvation.’
I’ve seen both occur and it’s simply not the narrow way that leads to life that God instructed us to follow!
2. If you love me keep my commandments.
The entire focus of our faith is love. When a man in the New Testament asked Yeshua what was the most important commandment in the Torah He said “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment…” Matthew 22:37
How do we show our love towards God? Yes of course by spending time with Him, but equally as important is obeying Him. Living our life in a way that is pleasing to Him. We can’t claim to love God and then blatantly disobey His commandments.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
What commandments are you talking about? You might be asking?
I want to make it clear I’m not promoting legalism or rabbinic man-made laws. In fact Yeshua was vehemently opposed to that kind of religion!
However at the same time Yeshua kept and encouraged us as His followers to keep the Torah.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” (Matthew 5:17)
A few examples would be ‘the Sabbath: one of the Ten Commandments, Kosher Dietary Laws & the biblical appointed times (holidays such as: Passover, Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles, Shavuot/Pentecost, Purim etc)
If you’re completely new to all of this it can be a bit overwhelming. The good news is that God isn’t in a rush! Take your time to prayerfully seek Him in embracing His will for your life. Gaining an understanding of the role we can play as believers in regards to Israel and the Jewish people gives us so much more purpose, clarity and passion behind our faith.
Keeping the Torah & God’s biblical holidays are not burdensome rituals. They hold so much meaning & richness that enhance our faith.
So why should you care about Israel?
Because God cares about Israel.
“If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.” (Psalm 137:5)
“For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His home: saying, “This is my resting place for ever and ever…” (Psalms 132:13-14)
As a believer you have an active role to play in sharing God’s heart for Israel & the Jewish people.
God promises that those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed. (Genesis 12:3)
This article originally appeared on Liat’s blog, May 18, 2020, and reposted with permission.