The Fireworks of Israel

October 30, 2023 Joel H

1 Corinthians 10:11 says, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” [ESV]. This is a clear instruction given to us today. We are supposed to learn from Israel. 

One of the most significant elements of Biblical theology is our understanding of the role of Israel in redemptive history and Israel’s relationship to the church. If you have been around Christianity for any length of time and after having read that previous sentence, I have no doubt that your theological “spidey-sense” just started tingling. I have no intention of wading into the debates and the historic divide that seems to exist in modern evangelical Christianity between dispensationalism and covenant theology and the many perspectives that seek to reconcile the relationship of Israel to the church. While the Apostle Paul wrote much of the book of Romans to give us the help we needed, that hasn’t stopped us from having many different interpretations of the role of Israel as taught in that book. 

These debates should not turn us aside from what the Bible clearly says. We need to hear God speak to us, and one of the unfortunate repercussions of avoiding the controversy is that we miss the critical implications of the role that Israel plays in our understanding of world missions today. 

I propose to you that Israel’s rebellion against God’s purposes for the nation are meant to instruct the church about God’s purpose for it. This begs the question, what was God’s purpose for Israel that they rebelled against? Here are a couple of verses that highlight their purpose:

Exodus 19:5-6, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

Isaiah 49:6, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Notice in both verses the universality of God’s rule over all peoples and the particular call on the nation of Israel for how they were to relate to all the other nations. God’s salvation was never intended to be for just one people. The nation was supposed to be a light for all the nations. Yet the history of Israel, and the prophet Isaiah specifically, show us that Israel failed miserably at that purpose. Isaiah also hints that Israel needed a greater Prophet as a mediator who would bring back Israel from their captivity to enable them to fulfill their purpose. The Ethiopian Eunuch was right to question Philip, “who is this talking about, the prophet or someone else?” 

Only Jesus could come to be the true Light of the world, calling all believers His children of light. From this point on, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God bursts forth into the world, with many coming to faith in the One True and Living God. While the light of faithful believers was but a small spark in the Old Testament, the glory of the New far surpasses the Old. It’s as if, with the coming of Jesus Christ, a firework has exploded. We can trace that light in the Old Testament, like the streak in the air that launches the rocket. That streak moves in a thin steady stream to the moment of explosion when the True Light came into the world bringing salvation to the ends of the earth.

This is the task of the church now:

To bring the glory of God to all peoples all over the world, making outposts of light in local churches everywhere. We should sit back and appreciate the brilliant display of God’s glory revealed throughout all of time beginning in Israel, culminating in Christ, and now displayed through the church for all the world to see. God’s glory is now brightly shining forth! 

Author

Joel H
With experience in missions and pastoral ministry, Joel serves Propempo with resource development and production.